In June, a landmark agreement on both the review of the Working Time Directive and a new Temporary (Agency) Workers Directive was reached by the EU Employment Council.

The Council agreement has linked the future of both Directives and enabled a political agreement to be reached following several years of stalemate. Briefly, under the agreement, the 48-hour opt-out remains but will be subject to some significant new conditions such as an overall cap of 60 hours; opt-outs not permitted during the first four weeks of employment (subject to limited exemptions); and a new category of inactive on-call time.

The new Temporary (Agency) Workers Directive will provide agency workers with the right to equal treatment with employees from day one. However, a qualifying period can be agreed at national level. This will allow the UK to use a 12-week qualifying period following the agreement it struck back in May with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Trade Union Congress (TUC).

See our alerts Balancing Act: Landmark European agreement on working time and agency workers and The Agency Workers deal: Is this "the right deal for Britain"? for further background.

The Temporary (Agency) Workers Directive has now been approved by the European Parliament without amendment. It will consider the amendments to the Working Time Directive over the next couple of weeks, when it is hoped it too will be approved without further amendment.

As expected, the compromise agreement ending the deadlock on the two Directives, has led to them now proceeding smoothly through the European Parliament. Both Directives are likely to be implemented in the UK sometime in 2010.