European MPs voted last week to abolish the clause that currently allows individuals to opt out of the standard European Union maximum of 48 hours a week if they want to work longer hours.
However, if this decision is ratified by the European Council of Ministers, the clause will be phased out over the next three years. The opt out is currently used more in the UK than in any other European country.
Both the c-store sector and the government have criticised the decision, believing it will reduce flexibility in the labour market and affect business productivity.
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive David Rae said: “The opt-out from the Working Time Directive is important to the convenience store sector because it allows staff who want to work longer hours to do so. Removing the opt-out would limit flexibility, increase bureaucracy and undermine the choice of individuals to work the hours they choose.”
Spar retailer Mark Gillett, who runs 36 c-stores in Devon and Cornwall, believes staff should be allowed to make up their own minds over the number of hours they work.
He said: “What happens if a store manager has worked 48 hours already in a week and has no one else to cover a shift? Are they breaking the law by doing it themselves? It’s hard enough to get good staff as it is, without stopping them being flexible with the hours they work.”