UK protects working time opt out

Talks on the EU Working Time Directive have broken down without agreement being reached.

The collapse sees the end of the European Parliament’s proposal to phase out the opt-out in three years. The UK and other countries have consistently held firm against this proposal.

A conciliation meeting in Brussels between the Member States, European Parliament and the European Commission was unable to resolve the long-standing differences between the European Parliament and member states over whether to retain the opt-out or not. With the deadline for reaching an agreement rapidly approaching, and the differences between the parties too great, it was agreed there was no value in continuing the negotiations any further.

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 protections surrounding the hours that they work, but it is also important that they have the right to choose those hours.

"In the UK and many other Member States, choice over working hours has operated successfully for many years. The current economic climate makes it more important than ever that people continue to have the right to put more money in their pockets by working longer hours if they choose to do so."

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said:

"Millions of people are better off because of the opt-out and I am relieved we have been able to resist its removal."

The dossier in its current form will formally fall when the conciliation timetable reaches its conclusion in May. It will then be for the European Commission to decide how to proceed.

Find out more about the Working Time Directive.

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