A recent meeting of EU employment ministers failed to reach an agreement on the UK's right to opt-out of the Working Time Directive's 48-hour working week. The UK chose to include an opt-out provision in the implementing national legislation, as permitted by the Directive. The European Commission consulted about proposed changes in 2004 with a number of proposals on the future of opt-out provisions.
On 11 May 2005 MEP's rejected the Commission's proposals and voted to end the opt-out within three years of a new Directive being implemented. Thereafter a number of member states, including the UK, have stalled progress of the Commission's proposals at subsequent meetings. The Finnish Presidency called an extraordinary meeting of the relevant Council on 7 November in an attempt to resolve the issue and suggested the following options:
# continuing to allow individual opt-out under the new rules, and adding a prohibition on signing an opt out agreement in the first four weeks of employment;
# introducing a 60-hour week cap for employees who opt-out and giving all employees the right to withdraw their consent within three months of signing the agreement; and
# basing the working week on an annual calculation of hours worked.
The UK apparently indicated they would be prepared to reduce the maximum hours in the opt-out for all workers from 78 to 65 hours a week, however, this was unacceptable to five other member states and therefore no agreement was reached. The stalemate is blocking other changes to the Directive, including proposals to deal with the rules regarding "on-call" time counting as working time. The European Commission have indicted 23 member states are in breach of the current rules following two recent ECJ decisions and they could take legal action against them.