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MEPs vote to block 48-hour opt-out for staff

05 November 2008 by

MEPs have voted to ban employees in Britain from choosing to work more than 48 hours per week in a decision that has been described as a "bitter pill to swallow" for UK businesses.

Members of the European Parliament voted today to axe the opt-out clause from the Working Time Directive, meaning that some three million workers who currently choose to work more than 48 hours a week would be forced not to do so.

A final decision will be reached in December by the whole of the European Parliament, but today's vote to scrap the opt-out by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee is likely to sway opinion.

Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat MEP, vice-president of the European Parliament's committee, said: "Today's vote plays politics with people's pockets and runs the risk of sinking the Government's hard-won deal to retain the opt-out.

"Scrapping the opt-out would be a bitter pill to swallow for businesses and many hard-working people who are tightening their belts and who want to boost their earnings in difficult economic times."

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: "Some people want to work longer hours, some people don't. The opt-out gives them a choice."

Business secretary Peter Mandelson has vowed to stand firm to protect the opt-out.

"To lose the ability to opt-out will mean workers cannot boost their earning potential when some are already struggling with high food and energy prices," he said.

Hospitality staff win right to work more than 48 hours a week >>
European Parliament to review Working Time Directive >>

Talks fail on Europe's Working Time Directive >>

Working time opt-outs >>

Daniel Thomas

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