The UK has won the first stage of its fight to maintain the opt-out from the Working Time Directive.
EU employment ministers were set to make a decision yesterday on removing the clause, after the European Parliament last month voted to scrap the opt-out by 2012.
But, it is understood, enough ministers opposed the plan to prevent the vote taking place. The issue now returns to the parliament and the question is likely to drag on for months.
The European Parliament and a number of EU member states want all nations to uphold a working week of no longer than 48 hours.
But the UK and other countries want employees to be able to work additional hours if they volunteer to do so.
Business has welcomed the decision, but trade union Unison called the government’s actions ‘appalling’.