There has yet to be a resolution on the EU Working Times Directive as the Conciliation Committee has failed to come to a decision over whether member states can opt-out of the 48-hour working week.

The UK is one of the countries which has refused to back down over an amendment by the European Parliament, which would mean countries would be unable to opt-out of the Directive.

Commenting on the issue, employment relations minister Pat McFadden said that the UK has been consistent over its insistence not to "give up the opt-out".

Mr McFadden said: "We argued that everyone has the right to basic protections surrounding the hours that they work, but also the right to choose those hours.

"Choice over working hours has operated successfully in the UK and in other Member States for many years."

He concluded that in the current economic climate, it was more important than ever for people to be given the option to work more hours to increase their salary.

Trades Union Congress general secretary, Brendan Barber, said he was "disappointed" that Britain was continuing to "block progress towards ending [a] damaging long hours culture".