UK workers have secured the right to work longer than 48 hours a week after EU ministers reached an agreement yesterday.
The step safeguards the UK’s flexible labour market, which is seen as vital for the hospitality industry, and follows a deal made last month which gives agency staff the same rights as permanent ones after a 12 week qualifying period.
Business Secretary John Hutton said: “This is a very good deal for the UK. It provides a fair deal for workers, without damaging Britain’s economic competitiveness or putting jobs at risk.
“Flexibility has been critical to our ability to create an extra three million jobs over the past decade. That flexibility has been preserved by ensuring workers can continue to have choice over their working hours in future years.
“This agreement means that people remain free to earn overtime and businesses can cope during busy times.”
The UK voted to opt out of a maximum 48-hour week which many other European countries adhere to. This agreement means UK employees will be given the chance to opt out of the 48-hour week to be able to work up to 60 hours a week following consultation with bosses.
The British Hospitality Association said it was delighted with the outcome.
"It will mean that hospitality workers can continue to work, as they wish, according to the peaks and troughs of demand. In a 24-hour, seven day a week industry, flexibility in
employment will continue to be a key factor in success," said a spokesman.
The TUC said it was disappointed that the UK opt-out on the 48 hour working week remains, but that it was pleased with other areas of the new Working Time Directive.
General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Employers will no longer be able to put pressure on staff to sign away their working time protection for four weeks, there will be an absolute limit of a 60 hour average week for most of the workforce - affecting more than 400,000 workers - and a universal right to request flexible working."