Most UK workers do not want the government or European Union to restrict the amount of hours they can work, according to new research.
A poll of almost 10,000 people in five European countries – the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – shows that 52% of British workers supported the retention of the opt-out to the Working Time Directive (WTD).
The controversial opt-out means UK employees can choose to work longer than the 48-hours if they choose – something trade unions and other European countries such as France and Spain have lobbied hard to have removed.
The survey by the Financial Times shows that the French government is out of step with public opinion, with 52% of French respondents saying they oppose restrictions on working hours.
The Germans also supported flexible working, with two in three (65%) saying they should be able to work their hours of choice.
Only the Spanish were in favour of restrictions on working time, with 72% backing curbs.
However, unions remained defiant, despite the results.
"Attitudes to working-time protection crucially depend on how the question is asked," said Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC.
"People do want protection against excess working hours that damage their health and relationships, even when poor pay forces them to notch up maximum overtime to provide a decent living standard," he told the Financial Times.