The decision to retain the UK’s opt-out of the 48-hour working week is in direct opposition to health and safety legislation.

That is according to GMB, a campaigning trade union, which has also suggested that distributing working hours more evenly could help to ease unemployment.

Kathleen Walker-Shaw, European officer at GMB, said that there was no logic to the decision and she expressed concern that by retaining the opt-out, the UK had "missed [an] opportunity to make things right".

Commenting on the decision, Ms Walker-Shaw said: "At the core of all this is a very dangerous principle, that we are encouraging people to opt out of health and safety legislation.

"In our view, the health and safety logic and argument is not there and the economic argument is not there supporting an opt-out."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, echoed Ms Walker-Shaw’s views when he stated that long hours were detrimental to employees’ health and productivity levels.