The CBI will urge the Government today (Thursday) to protect the rights of UK employees to work more than 48 hours a week if they wish to.
It will publish a report showing that employers need to keep the freedom to ask their staff to opt-out of the weekly hours limit, set out in the EU working time directive.
The European Commission will review the individual's right to opt out by November this year, raising fears of another increase in labour regulation.
The CBI report reveals the findings of a CBI-Pertemps survey of 400 UK firms where 60 per cent said removal of the opt-out right would have 'a significant or severe' impact on business.
Companies said it would also undermine their ability to meet customer needs, respond to demand or launch new commercial ventures.
CBI director-general Digby Jones has written to Chancellor Gordon Brown and Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt warning that the issue is "the next test of the Government's stated commitment to labour market flexibility".
Jones, who spent yesterday in Brussels lobbying on the issue, also accuses trade unions of misrepresenting their members by campaigning for further restrictions on hours.
The CBI report finds there is no evidence that a significant number of employees want to lose the opt-out, and some firms believe removal will cause staff resentment.
This week Personnel Today revealed that behind-closed-doors discussions between Fernando Pereira, the European official leading the review of the opt-out and John Evans of the Employment Lawyers Association, indicate that it is unlikely to be scrapped completely (news, June 24).
By Ben Willmott