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UK WTD Opt Out Finally Rejected By Europe

The European Parliament has voted to end the opt-out, meaning UK employees will be limited to working 48 hours a week.

Back in June it was announced that the UK had secured continuation of the opt-out following a deal between the TUC and CBI giving temporary workers increased rights after 12 weeks.

However, the proposed amendments to the Working Time Directive focused on health and safety and preservation of the work/life balance, and included phasing out the opt-out over three years "to do away with a provision that undermines worker health and safety protection and the inalienability of fundamental rights."

These amendments have now been ratified, meaning the UK will no longer be allowed to opt out of the maximum 48-hour working week if a worker agrees to work.

This is not the decision the UK Government was hoping for. Gordon Brown had pledged to stand firm to keep the opt-out, and it is now thought there will be further negotiation between the EU and the UK on the matter.

More details will follow, but essentially it means that all workers, as of 2011/2012, will not be able to work more than 48 hours in a week, even if they want to.

The measure will now have to be thrashed out in last-ditch talks between parliament and EU governments, with the outcome uncertain.

Commenting on the vote today (Wednesday) in the European Parliament to remove Britain's opt-out from the 48-hour limit on the working week, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'This is an early Christmas present for Britain's hardest workers, and for the families who see too little of them. Members of the European Parliament have courageously defied the abusers and the slave-drivers over the loss of the 'right' to work people till they drop.

'Britain's workers will still be working hard to get the British economy back on its feet, but they will now be protected from the stress, heart disease and accidents that result from persistent long hours. And their families will get their mums and dads back.

'Now we need to tackle the low pay and poor productivity that were kept alive by long hours working. No one should have to work more than 48 hours a week all year round to put food on the table or a roof over their heads.

'MEPs have dealt Scrooge employers a big blow, and the long hours culture will now become part of Christmas past.'

Source: Workplace Law Network/TUC

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