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Employment Law

Working time and the Working Time Regulations 1998

The Working Time Regulations apply to all those who work under a contract of employment or any other contract to personally provide work to another party. This includes employees, agency workers, freelancers but not the self-employed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who do the working time regulations apply to?

    Those who work under a contract of employment or any other contract to personally provide work to another party. This includes employees, agency workers, freelancers but not the self-employed.

  • What rights do the regulations confer?

    48-hour week

    Each worker should work a maximum of 48 hours per week on average, calculated by reference to a 17 week period of work. ‘Working time’ is defined as when the employee is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out their duties. 

    Workers may opt out of the 48-hour working week, but only voluntarily, and may opt back in by written notice.

    Annual leave

    All workers are entitled to 28 days of paid annual leave. Bank holidays are included unless the contract of employment says otherwise.

    Workers must be paid at a rate of a week’s pay for each week of leave.

    An employee may only roll over leave into the next holiday year in the following circumstances:

    • it is permitted by their employer and is over and above their 28 day statutory entitlement; or
    • the employee hasn’t taken all of their annual leave because they were on sick leave.

    Rest periods

    Daily rest:  Adult workers are entitled to 11 consecutive hours’ rest in each 24 hour period. 

    Weekly rest:  Adult workers are entitled to a rest period of 24 hours in each seven day period.

    Rest breaks:  After six hours at work, a worker is entitled to a rest break no shorter than 20 minutes.

    Night workers: A night worker is an individual who works at least three hours during night time on the majority of days on which they work. Under the Regulations, night time means a period of seven hours which includes midnight to 5am, but employers may stipulate differently. Night workers must not work more than an average of eight hours in every 24 hours during a 17 week period.

    Exceptions: the above rules don’t apply to workers in certain industries. These include hospital, airport and prison workers and those involved in gas, water and electricity production.

  • How can I enforce my rights?

    The above limits are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities. An employee may complain to an Employment Tribunal about an employer’s failure to allow an employee to exercise their rights under the Working Time Regulations within three months of the alleged failure. Remedies include compensation and a declaration of rights.

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