Brits to abide by working hours rule

Posted on 17 Dec 2008 by The Manufacturer

MEP's have today voted to scrap individuals’ right to opt-out of the 48-hour maximum working week.

Individual workers here in Britain as well as in 14 other EU member states have up until now been able to decide themselves if they want to work more than the maximum. There were fears however that employers were using the opt-out to force people to work longer than they wanted to.

And the vote today produced a result of 421-273 in favour of scrapping opt-outs of the Working Time Directive’s limitations on hours per week.

Gordon Brown wanted to keep the ability to stay flexible but many of his own Labour euro MPs voted against it.

Conservative MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews was cross about the result, describing it as “a double failure of Gordon Brown.”

“It should never be the place of the European Parliament to tell people they cannot work – particularly during a downturn. Scrapping our working time opt-out is even more nonsensical in today’s economic climate than ever before,” he said.

“Not only has he (Brown) failed to control his MEPs, but he also naively signed up to a package deal that saw Britain give ground on the Agency Workers Directive in exchange for our working time opt-out.

“His folly was to assume the Left in the European Parliament would not sabotage the deal. British businesses have been given two damaging pieces of employment legislation for the price of one.”

The resolution means the opt-out will be phased out by 2011.

John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director-General, was also upset by the decision. He said:

“This vote is misguided. Trying to ban people from choosing to work more than 48 hours a week is a mistake, and would replace opportunity with obstruction.

“In the current downturn, a family might depend on one parent being able to work extra hours if the other loses their job.

“Many people want to work longer hours, in professions ranging from manufacturing to medical research. They do so to further their careers or earn extra money, or to help their firm through difficulties. They should be able to do so if they choose.

“We hope the Council of Ministers stand firm against these amendments and back the compromise agreed in June in which the opt-out was retained.”