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Wednesday, 17 December 2008


I have just voted in favour of ending the UK opt-out from the Working Time Directive. Since the Working Time Directive improves the balance between work and home life, thereby helping women, as Labour's European Spokesperson on Women, I felt I really had to vote against the British opt out.

This opt-out allowed workers to agree to work longer, subject to certain limits. It specified no more than 60 hours a week on average when calculated over a period of three months or 65 hours where there is no collective agreement and "when the inactive period of on-call time is considered as working time."

The European Parliament decided by a small majority today that the opt out should go and that European workers should therefore be limited to a 48 hour week. However, as this may be calculated over a twelve month period, the net effect will not be as great as some feared. In addition, since the Directive will not come into force for some considerable while, there will be no immediate change, allowing time for new arrangements to be put in place.

There were two votes in the European Parliament on the opt out, both of which required a qualified majority of 393 votes. The first, on the opt out itself, was carried by 421 votes for to 273 against with 11 abstentions. The second vote was on the opt out plus calculating 48 hours a week over a period of 12 months (annualisation). The voting was 544 in favour, against 160 and 12 abstentions.

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