The European Commission has reached an agreement on the UK’s opt-out of the Working Time Directive, which currently allows employees to sign an agreement that they will not be limited to working 48 hours per week.

Employees will still be able to sign such an agreement, but only after they have completed the first month of their employment. Employers will be prohibited from penalising any employee who refuses to sign an opt-out or who pulls out of a previously signed opt-out agreement. In addition there will be a cap of 60 hours (on average) per week which cannot be opted out of. For workers whose inactive on-call time is counted as working time the cap will be 65 hours per week.

It will take time for this decision to take effect in UK law, but in due course employers who currently use opt-out agreements will have to amend them to take account of these changes.