08/05/2012 09:30 BST

Vince Cable: Workers Should Not Get Extra Days Off For Holiday Sickness

Vince Cable has said a European ruling that workers should be entitled to extra days off if they fall sick during their holidays would "strangle" small businesses in the United Kingdom.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, the Lib Dem business secretary attacked the Working Time Directive (WTD), which sets a 48-hour limit to the working week.

Cable said that while it had been introduced with the good intentions of stopping, among other things, "long distance drivers falling asleep at the wheel", it had gotten out of hand.

"A heavy-handed, one-size–fits-all approach has been adopted, with unintended perverse outcomes," he said.

"The directive incorporates the idea that is most clearly expressed in the French 35-hour week: that work should be compulsorily restricted and shared out, whether or not it suits the needs of individual workers or firms.

"Not only is this dreadful economics, it is also deeply illiberal. It suppresses the right of workers to choose how long they work to earn overtime."

Britain currently has an opt-out of the directive, but Cable said that he has been put under pressure to scrap it.

And he said that he was also having to fend off "damaging" rulings by the European Court of Justice which forces employers to give their employees more time off work if they are injured or fall ill while on holiday.

"This proposition goes far beyond what was originally intended by the WTD and would simply strangle small businesses," he said.

"I have instructed my officials to roll back these damaging rulings wherever possible, ensuring we strike a balance between protecting employees and giving employers the flexibility they need to help grow this country out of recession."

Cable's article came in the wake of devastating election results for both the Lib Dems and the Tories, with many coalition MPs concerned that the public is punishing them for failing to improve the economy.

Responding to such concerns, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are expected to tell an audience in Essex on Tuesday afternoon that their "number-one priority" was still to keep Britain safe from the financial storm raging in the eurozone and to rescue the economy from the "mess" left by the last Labour government.