The summit was unable to resolve differences between the European parliament and member states over whether the opt-out clause of the Working Time Directive should be phased out, with the UK and 14 other countries holding out against an amendment.
Pat McFadden, employment relations minister, argues that everyone has the right to choose their working hours and says he will not be forced into accepting a ‘bad deal for Britain’.
He also claims that the current economic climate makes it important for people to be able to earn more money if they want to.
John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, adds that the member states were right to maintain the directive’s opt-out, explaining that banning longer working hours could affect people’s ability to support their families.
The British Chambers of Commerce also welcomed the decision, commenting: ‘It provides the essential flexibility that many businesses and employees are relying on to get through this downturn.’
Louise Morgan, senior policy adviser in the employment and employee relations team at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), says that the ability to decide how many hours to work gives flexibility to both workers and their employers.
‘What’s nice about it is that it’s about workers having the right to choose their own working hours and employers have the flexibility to respond to peaks in demand,’ she comments.