Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations 1998 put a limit on the number of hours that workers can work each week.

The basic provisions of the Working Time Regulations state that employees are:

  • Required to work an average of / no more than 48 hours a week, unless they specifically opt-out.
  • Entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid time off per year.
  • Allowed 1 consecutive hours' rest per 24-hour period.
  • Entitled to a 20-minute rest break (for working days longer than six hours)
  • Meant to have 11 hours of rest between working days.
  • Given a minimum of one day off per week.
  • Not allowed to work more than eight hours - for night shifts - in any 24-hour period.
  • Restricted to 8-hours per day and 40-hours per week if they are aged 16-18.

More About Rest Breaks

Employers need to understand that while the WTR provide a bit of flexibility regarding when rest periods can occur there cannot be any overlap between, for instance, the 11 hours of uninterrupted daily rest and the 24 or 48 hours of weekly or fortnightly rest. They can take place right after one another but the two designated rest periods cannot run concurrently. Also, those workers employed on monotonous tasks are entitled to receive additional breaks, although the law does not specify the length or frequency of those breaks.

What do the Working Time Regulations cover?  

The Regulations apply to all part-time and full-time workers, including most agency workers and freelancers. However, there are exceptions:

  • The armed forces and police are exempt from the regulations. This also includes emergency services staff when dealing with an emergency.
  • Workers whose "working time is not measured or pre-determined" are exempt. This can include senior managers and people employed by family members.
  • Young workers - classified as under 18 - are entitled to more generous rest break allowances.

Employers should not assume that just because a police officer, soldier or someone running a family store is allowed to work more than 48 hours per week that they can compel 'ordinary' employees to work more than 48 hours in a given week. That is, unless they specifically opt out of the 48-hour limit. Be advised, however, that if you ask someone to work more than 48 hours per week and they agree and opt out of the 48-hour limit, they retain the right to change their mind. All they need to do is give you adequate notice.

The Working Time Directive and Holiday Pay

The WTD entitles every employee to receive 5.6 weeks, or 28 days, of paid leave annually. Of particular note for employers is that this holiday pay must include overtime, commissions and any bonuses the employee would normally receive during that amount of time when they are working. Still, it is not uncommon for employees to claim they are entitled to more than they are granted under the WTD, and when such claims are raised employers need effective representation by expert Working Time Regulation Solicitors to ensure their rights are fully protected.

All full-time workers are entitled to receive these 28 days of paid holiday leave each year though employers have the right to enhance the number for any given employee. They would, however, be well advised to carefully consider such enhancements as offering employee X additional holidays could establish a precedent other workers could use to claim they are being discriminated against.

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