Small businesses are looking at the possibility of having to enforce a maximum 48 hour week on their employees if Britain votes on the controversial law, ending Britain’s working time directive opt out.

MEPs have voted this week to become a part of the Working Time Directive which will see employees only being allowed to work a maximum of 48 hours per week starting from 2011.  Britain has opted-out of the directive before now and Brown is one of the supporters of the opt-out.

A spokeswoman for Mitchell’s & Butlers claimed, “We have already re-engineered pub rosters and manager responsibilities significantly since the Work Time regulations were first introduced in 1998 to mitigate any cost implications should they come into force – and we will continue to do this. We have a good track record of responsibility to external cost pressures, particularly those relating to employment.”

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson announced that the country should not have to bow down to such a law, saying, “Fifteen EU nations now take advantage of the flexibility provided by the opt-out and none of them should back down.  It should never be the place of the European Parliament to tell people they cannot work – particularly during a downturn.

“Scrapping our Working Time opt-out is even more nonsensical in today’s economic climate than ever before.  If people want to work extra hours to provide for themselves and their families they should be allowed to. This decision by the European Parliament will now mean there will be a stalemate as far as the United Kingdom opt-out is concerned,” Nicholson complained.

There will now be a period of conciliation with the hopes to break the stalemate, as MEPs in the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have met with different ideas.

Nicholson was labouring under the same impression as Gordon Brown on the matter.  Brown believes that, after discussing the issue with the Czech Prime Minister, Mirek Topolanek, the decision to abandon the opt out would be a regrettable one.

“Freedom of choice over working hours has operated successfully in the UK and a number of member states for many years and I continue to support the opt-out which gives that choice to UK workers,” Brown told a news conference.

“I believe it’s wrong to take away from workers the chance to work longer and earn more if they wish and ending the opt-out is bad for business.  So we together will continue to defend that position,” Brown said, apparently talking about Topolanek.

Britain was the first country to opt-out of the regulation in 1993 in efforts to allow employees to work over the 48 hours a week limit enforced by the directive.
An Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers spokeswoman claimed, “The key thing is how it would be implemented in the UK. In a meeting of the council of ministers earlier this year, they voted to keep some of the derogations under the opt-out.”

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