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As part of negotiations of Britain’s EU membership David Cameron is hoping to opt out of EU employment directives, according to Conservative sources. John Major originally negotiated the opt-outs in 1997, they were then abandoned by Tony Blair.

What does this mean for employment law in the UK? Cameron essentially wants to opt out of certain EU social protection laws such as the working time directive. At present EU directives state that employees are entitled to the following;

  • a limit to weekly working hours, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any  overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a rest break during working hours if the worker is on duty for longer than 6 hours
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each 7-day period, in addition to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks per year
  • extra protection for night work, e.g. average working hours must not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period
  • night workers must not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period
  • night workers have the right to free health assessments and, under certain circumstances, to transfer to day work

The GMB and Unite unions have stated they would challenge any attempt to opt-out of such social protection laws, including the agency workers directive.
A demand for Britain to be excluded from employment laws would therefore be a high-risk political move, unless broadly equivalent UK legislation is enacted to fill the void. It remains to be seen how far Cameron gets with this.

Ralli’s team of employment law solicitors in Manchester provides expert legal advice to businesses in all areas from handling staff grievances, disciplinaries and discrimination to contracts of employment and TUPE transfers.