Hospitality workers will still have the right to work more than 48 hours a week if they so wish, after talks in Brussels over the UK's opt-out of the Working Time Directive broke up without agreement.
In the latest twist in a debate that has gone on since 1993, the UK Government successfully resisted pressure to accept the removal of the right to opt-out of the maximum 48-hour working week at a meeting of the EU's Conciliation Committee
The UK and other countries held firm against a European Parliament amendment to the Working Time Directive that would have phased out the opt-out in three years.
Employment relations minister Pat McFadden said the result was a boost for both workers and employers in the UK. "We have said consistently that we would not give up the opt-out and we have delivered on that pledge," he said.
"We argued that everyone has the right to basic protections surrounding the hours that they work, but also the right to choose those hours. In the current downturn it is more important than ever that people keep the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they wish. We refused to be pushed into a bad deal for Britain."
Talks will now be reconvened for later this month, with challenges remaining to bridge the gap between member states and the European Parliament.
By Daniel Thomas
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