The UK working week could be shortened, as the European Commission has ordered the government to close legal loopholes in its labour laws.
The government has been given two months to comply, following a case brought against by the union, Amicus, which successfully argued that the UK's implementation of the European working time directive was unlawful and inadequate.
The directive states that employees cannot work more than 48 hours per week -- although certain professions including healthcare and the media are exempt, and workers can chose to opt out and work longer.
Amicus complained that employers are not enforcing workers' rights to breaks and holidays. In theory this means individuals could be required to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
UK employees currently work an average of 43.6 hours a week, compared with a European average of 40.3 hours, according to a Workplace Employee Relations survey.
Roger Lyons, Amicus general secretary, described the decision as 'a historic victory for British workers.
'British workers work the longest hours in Europe. This decision will cut excessive working time considerably, will slash stress and will bring us closer to the level playing field on working hours already enjoyed throughout the rest of Europe'.