MEPs vote to scrap opt-out from the 48 hour working week

The European Parliament has voted to scrap the option to opt-out of the Working Time Directive and force employers across Europe to stick to a 48 hour working week, averaged over a year.

The UK won the right to opt-out of the directive in 1993 saying flexibility was vital to business strength and at least 14 other EU countries now take advantage of it.

However today’s vote saw 421 MEPs vote in favour of forcing an end to the opt out within 36 months of a country adopting the directive. It is now likely to go to a conciliation committee within the European Council.

In response to this vote the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), however, has issued a warning against a statutory restriction of working hours and has argued that employers and employees should be establish better work-life balance.

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser, at the CIPD, said: “The CIPD opposes long working hours but believes that a healthy work-life balance is best achieved through better work organisation and progressive people management.

“Good employers do not make their staff work longer hours, but business demands may occasionally arise, requiring employees to put in extra hours. Additionally the removal of this flexibility neglects to recognise that employees may value the freedom of choosing whether to work more hours or not.”