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Right to work overtime in UK to continue

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The right for UK workers to choose to work longer than 48 hours a week has been secured, after ministers reached a new agreement in Europe. The landmark agreement on both the Working Time Directive and the Agency Workers Directive at the EU Employment Council allows the UK’s vital labour market flexibility to continue, while ensuring workers are treated fairly.

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 three 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.

“This agreement means that people remain free to earn overtime and businesses can cope during busy times. Securing the right for people to work longer if they choose to do so is hugely valuable to the British economy.

“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.”

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 in a given job. The UK’s flexible labour market has one of the highest levels of job creation in Europe, along with a framework of rights like the National Minimum Wage, maternity and paternity pay and leave, 24-days holiday and strong health and safety provisions to protect all workers.

The agreement represents security for people to work more than 48 hours a week, an arrangement that has been used successfully in the UK for a decade. It also addresses long-standing issues around on-call time.

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