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.
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