A ban on UK employees working more than 48 hours a week could have dire consequences for struggling businesses in sectors such as hospitality, business lobby group CBI has warned.
Formal talks restarted last week in Brussels to determine whether the UK can retain its opt-out status from the European Working Time Directive, which aims to limit the working week to 48 hours.
A deal has still not yet been reached between the UK Government, which wants to retain the opt-out clause, and members of the European Parliament which wants it scrapped.
The EU Parliament voted to scrap the opt-out last December, causing much angst among UK businesses in sectors such as hospitality, which rely on employees working more than 48 hours per week
The vote went to conciliation for a maximum period of eight weeks, while both the European Council and the European Parliament tried to agree on the future of the opt-out, and the debate is now in its final stages.
John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said limited working hours would replace "opportunity with obstruction".
"Banning longer hours could have unintended consequences," he said. "It could stop staff in a company that is fighting for survival from going the extra mile, or prevent somebody earning overtime to support their family in hard times.
"If your partner has lost their job, should Brussels stop you from putting in overtime to support your family?" he added.
The directive is a European Union initiative designed to protect workers from exploitation by employers. It lays down regulations on matters such as how long employees work, how many breaks they have and how much holiday they are entitled to.
By Daniel Thomas
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