Hospitality workers will be allowed to work for more than 48 hours per week if they wish after the UK finally won its right to retain the opt-out to the Working Time Directive.
Talks on the European legislation broke down without agreement for the final time in Brussels last night, meaning restrictions on the working week do not apply to UK workers.
MEPs have been trying since November to limit the amount of hours an employee can work, claiming that many people were being exploited.
But the collapse in talks marks the end of the European Parliament's proposal to scrap the opt-out in three years.
Employment relations minister Pat McFadden said: "We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain. We have said consistently that we will not give up the opt-out and we have delivered on that pledge.
"Everyone has the right to basic protection surrounding the hours that they work, but it is also important that they have the right to choose those hours."
John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, added: "We welcome the retention of the opt-out, which we have been calling for in London and Brussels. It allows people to make their own decision about the hours they work. Keeping the opt-out is a victory for common sense and is good for the UK economy."
More than one in 10 employees work beyond 48 hours per week, according to government figures, amounting to three million staff.
By Daniel Thomas
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