The UK has secured a deal to keep its opt-out from the Working Time Directive following a meeting of European employment ministers yesterday (Monday).
EU member states voted to allow the UK to keep its exemption which allows employees to work longer than 48 hours a week. However, there will be a review of the opt-out in the next eight years.
The government said an agreement on the Working Time Directive allowed continued flexibility in the UK labour market. According to the TUC, about 3.3 million people in the UK work more than 48 hours a week.
Business secretary John Hutton said the deal was good for the UK. “It provides a fair deal for workers, without damaging Britain’s economic competitiveness or putting jobs at risk,” he said.
“Flexibility has been critical to our ability to create an extra three million jobs over the past decade. That flexibility has been preserved by ensuring workers can continue to have choice over their working hours in future years.”
An agreement on the rights of agency workers between the government, TUC and CBI, was also approved by the EU Employment Council. The two sides reached a deal last month to give agency workers the same rights as permanent staff after 12 weeks.
“The agreement will give a fair deal to agency workers and will prevent the unfair undercutting of permanent staff while retaining important flexibility for businesses to hire staff for short-term seasonal contracts or at busy times,” said Hutton.