News  

Negotiations between the European Parliament and European Council on the revised Working Time Directive have failed, which means that the current Working Time Directive, including the 'opt out', continue to remain in force.  

Implications  

The failure at European level to reach agreement on the revised Working Time Directive has removed the current uncertainty over the UK's ability to retain the opt out, following the European Parliament's vote to abolish it last December.  

The opt out will therefore remain in force for the foreseeable future.  

Details  

Under the current Working Time Directive, workers in the European Union are subject to a maximum working week of 48 hours.  

In 1993, the UK negotiated an "opt out" from this part of the Directive, which permits Member States to allow employees to agree with their employers that they will work longer than 48 hours per week.  

Following a review of the Working Time Directive in 2004, the European Council and European Commission proposed amendments to the current Working Time Directive.  

In December 2008, when these proposals came before the European Parliament, it voted to abolish the opt out (as reported in our Newsflash of 22 December 2008).  

However, when the matter came before the European Commission in February 2009 it rejected the European Parliament's proposal to abolish the opt out ( as reported in our Newsflash of 12 February 2009).  

This split at European level led to a 'Conciliation Stage' to try and reach an agreement on the revised Working Time Directive and in particular the opt out. Several member states, including the UK, were determined to retain the opt out, whereas the European Parliament wanted to make the opt out 'exceptional and temporary'.  

In the absence of any agreement on the revised Working Time Directive, the existing Directive which includes the opt out remains in force.