The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has welcomed the European Parliament’s vote to remove the opt-out from the 48-hour limit on the UK working week.

Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary, said the decision will allow workers to see more of their families and described it as "early Christmas present".

He added: "Britain’s workers will still be working hard to get the British economy back on its feet, but they will now be protected from the stress, heart disease and accidents that result from persistent long hours."

Mr Barber also said that no-one should be forced to work more than 48 hours each week in order to meet expenses and called for efforts to be made to fight low wages to further improve employees’ lives.

However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development claimed to be disappointed with the European Parliament’s vote, pointing out that the previous rule allowed businesses to take a more flexible approach.

The organisation also said better people management and organisational changes should be the preferred ways to improve staff’s work/life balance.