THE EUROPEAN Commission is planning to review the rule that allows those employed in agriculture to work more than 48-hours per week.

Currently the UK is the only Member State in the EU that has adopted the derogation to opt-out of the Working Time Directive across all sectors.

But the commission is consulting on changes to the Working Time Directive, including a cap on working hours, which farm leaders claim will cripple may farm businesses.

National Farmers Union president Tim Bennett said: “A cap on the number of working hours per week could devastate many farm businesses.

“Growing crops are time-critical and must be harvested quickly in order to maintain high quality British produce.

“Many farmers and their workers work non-stop from sunup to sundown to maximise this small window of opportunity.”

The NFU also says the proposed system of averaging working hours, even over a 26 week period, would be impossible for many farmers.

The UK wishes to retain the extended reference period from 17 weeks to 26 or 52, depending on the industry.

Mr Bennett added: “A regulation limiting working hours could severely hamper free trade, and make UK growers uncompetitive on the world food markets.

“To this end, the NFU is working with other UK industries to retain the necessary flexibility for farmers and growers.”

 The commission held a consultation on the issue which closed on March 31.