The European Union’s Council of Ministers are currently in discussions about whether the UK should be allowed to opt-out of the European Working Time Directive.

Under the directive, employees in the UK would not be allowed to work more than 48 hours, but there has been much opposition to the idea.

David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce said that the UK needed to retain its opt-out clause in order to survive the recession.

Commenting on the issue, Mr Frost said: "It would be extremely foolish to try and end the UK’s opt-out, especially during a painful recession. The opt-out provides the essential flexibility that many businesses and their employees are relying on to get through this downturn."

Meanwhile, Conny Reuter, secretary general of equality organisation Solidar said that the Working Time Directive should not become a barrier to "protecting quality jobs, creating more and better jobs and guaranteeing social rights at work".