Working Time Opt-Out

Opt-out to Maximum Working Week Under Threat

The UK opt-out from the Working Time Directive is under threat following a vote in the European Parliament. The report voted on calls for the revision of the opt-out, with a view to phasing it out as soon as possible.

Local Labour MEPs Terry Wynn, Arlene McCarthy and Gary Titley have gone on the record voting against British interests. The report now represents the official opinion of the European Parliament, and is a strong indication of future legislation from the EU.

Local Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins has been campaigning to retain the UK's rights to opt out of this directive. He said:

"I believe a person has the right to choose the amount of hours he or she works. The abolition of our opt-out to the Working Time Directive will seriously damage labour market flexibility in the UK. A limit on working hours would deny people the freedom to choose their working patterns and would prevent millions from earning overtime pay.

Research has shown that the majority of British employers and employees are in favour of retaining the opt-out. By voting to remove the UK opt-out, these MEPs have ignored the views of their constituents and their own government, and have threatened current working practices in the UK."


Opposition MEPs voted in favour of abolishing the UK opt-out to the Working Time Directive on Wednesday in Strasbourg. In the case of Labour MEPs, they not only voted against British interests, they also voted against their own government line.

The Working Time Directive enforces a maximum 48-hour working week in all Member States, but EU governments were offered an opt-out when the directive was first agreed. The UK is therefore not currently bound by these rules but the European Commission is looking into revising the directive. The report from the Parliament is not legally binding, but may encourage the Commission to prepare new plans to scrap the opt-out.

Conservative MEPs believe that it is essential to retain our opt-out in order to maintain labour market flexibility, and business leaders have joined in the condemnation of opposition MEPs.
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