Political agreement has been reached on maximum working time rules but the UK remains exempt from the 48 hour week

European member states have reached an agreement that guarantees a 48 hour cap on working time, but the UK remains exempt from the law.

In the small hours of June 10 member states reached an agreement in Luxembourg on the longstanding issue of the Working Time Directive and the Temporary Agency Work Directive.

The agreement guarantees the UK opt-out on the 48 hour working week.

The Commission welcomed the political agreement. Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said: 'The ball is now in the court of the European Parliament and I sincerely hope that this solid agreement will find a majority in the plenary.'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'While we are disappointed that the UK opt-out on the 48 hour working week remains, there has been real progress on other working time issues.’

Under the agreement there will be an absolute limit of a 60 hour average week for most of the workforce and a universal right to request flexible working. ‘All these measures have been opposed by employer lobby groups,’ said Barber.

'While there will need to be detailed negotiations, and attention to the small print, the EU has once again proved an important route to better working conditions and employment rights,’ added Barber.

The UK government’s opt-out will be reviewed in the future.

The main points of agreement in the Working Time Directive are:

On-call time to be split into active and inactive on-call time. Active on-call time to be counted as working time

Inactive on-call time may not be counted as rest time and can be counted as working time if national laws or social partners agree

Standard maximum limit remains at 48 working hours per week unless an individual worker chooses otherwise (opt-out)

New protective limit (cap) for workers who opt out: maximum working week of 60 hours unless social partners agree otherwise

New cap for workers who opt-out if inactive on-call time is counted as working time: maximum working week of 65 hours

The cap protects all workers employed for longer than 10 weeks with one employer

Opt-out only under certain conditions, such as: no signature during first month of employment, no victimisation for not signing or withdrawing opt-out, employers must keep records on working hours of opted-out workers.