The new working time regulations could affect immigrants
17 December 2008. The European Parliament has voted to end the opt-out, meaning UK employees will be limited to working 48 hours a week.
The new working time regulations could affect immigrants who are usually preferred for jobs demanding long hours.
Back in June it was announced that the UK had secured continuation of the opt-out following a deal between the TUC and CBI giving temporary workers increased rights after 12 weeks.
However, the proposed amendments to the Working Time Directive focused on health and safety and preservation of the work/life balance, and included phasing out the opt-out over three years "to do away with a provision that undermines worker health and safety protection and the inalienability of fundamental rights."
These amendments have now been ratified, meaning the UK will no longer be allowed to opt out of the maximum 48-hour working week if a worker agrees to work.
This is not the decision the UK Government was hoping for.
Gordon Brown had pledged to stand firm to keep the opt-out, and it is now thought there will be further negotiation between the EU and the UK on the matter.
More details will follow, but essentially it means that all workers, as of 2011/2012, will not be able to work more than 48 hours in a week, even if they want to.
The measure will now have to be thrashed out in last-ditch talks between parliament and EU governments, with the outcome uncertain.