The Food & Drink Federation is calling upon the European Parliament to retain the right for UK firms to opt out of the 48-hour maximum working week.

The call comes in advance of tomorrow's (18 December) European Parliament vote on the so-called Working Time Directive.

If food and drink firms cannot opt out, this could "significantly reduce the flexibility of businesses" and their competitive advantage, the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) said.

The UK government has repeatedly argued that it should be allowed to remain exempt.  

"We believe that the opt out to the working time directive's 48-hour maximum working week is vital to Britain's labour market flexibility and losing the ability to opt out would limit the extent to which workers can boost their earning potential," said Angela Coleshill, FDF HR director.

She added: "The food and drink manufacturing sector's production, by its very nature, is subject to considerable seasonal fluctuations in demand. It is therefore vital that FDF's members are able to respond flexibly to customer demand in busy periods."