The European Parliament has sent a delegation to Portugal to establish whether it plans to resurect the Working Time Directive (WTD) when it takes over the presidency in September.
It is, as yet, unclear whether the Portuguese will put the WTD review on its list of priorities during its tenure.
Agreement on a review of the WTD, which has been needed since 1993, has failed to be reached by six successive presidencies after the British Government steadfastly remained against the removal of the opt-out clause allowing employees voluntarily to work more than 48 hours a week.
Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, was visting Portugal as Caterer went to press to establish the Portuguese position. She said: "There is stalemate in the council regarding the opt-out, but the British position is untenable and unpoliceable."
The current revised directive provides a lot of flexibility, such as "annualisation", she added, which could still allow groups such as seasonal hospitality workers to work more than 48 hours a week during peak periods.
Sean McGuire, chief policy adviser in Brussels for employers' body the Confederation of British Industry, warned that the WTD had become a political football, but added: "We would like to see agreement on the WTD so we can move on to other issues, such as the ageing population and disability, but everything is stalled until this issue gets off the table."
London Labour MEP Robert Evans, who wants the opt-out clause removed, said: "We are working with the Government to find a compromise position."
By Emily Manson
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