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UK secures right to work overtime

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A landmark agreement has been reached that allows UK workers to choose to work longer than 48 hours a week.

Ministers reached a new agreement in Europe on both the Working Time Directive and the Agency Workers Directive at the EU Employment Council.

Business secretary John Hutton said this is a very good deal for the UK. “It provides a fair deal for workers, without damaging Britain’s economic competitiveness or putting jobs at risk. Flexibility has been critical to our ability to create an extra 3 million jobs over the past decade. That flexibility has been preserved by ensuring workers can continue to have choice over their working hours in future years.”

Hutton continued by saying the agreement allowed people to remain free to earn overtime whilst allowing businesses to cope during busy times.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has welcomed the working time opt-out. Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said it will give people the freedom to work longer than 48 hours a week if they choose to do so.

“The CIPD opposes long hours working but believes that reduced hours and improved work-life balance is best achieved through changes in work organisation and through progressive people management rather than a statutory restriction on maximum working hours.”

The deal on agency workers comes after the CBI and TUC signed a joint declaration last month agreeing to a 12-week qualifying period for agency workers to be given equal treatment as permanent staff.

“The agreement on agency working will give a fair deal for agency workers and prevent unfair undercutting of permanent staff while retaining important flexibility for businesses to hire staff for short-term seasonal contracts or key busy times,” said Hutton.

Kevin Green, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said that the decision on the Agency Workers Directive marks a significant change for the UK temping industry.

“At this stage, it is too early to gauge its exact impact and we will be working hard to ensure that when this directive is implemented in the UK, it does not have a negative impact on the provision of temporary workers.”

In related news, HRZone.co.uk recently reported that the numbers working over 48 hours a week has climbed to 3.3 million.

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