Guide to Working Hours Requirements

A legal worker looking a legal documents on a computer

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (‘WTR’) govern the working hours of those who work under a contract of employment and any other contract to personally provide work or services to another person/party. The WTR are implied into every contract of employment and cover a variety of rights a worker is entitled to.

It is important to understand what constitutes working time as it will allow a worker and/or an employer to calculate their entitlements under the WTR. Working time means any period a worker is working at their employer’s disposal, carrying out activities or duties for their employer and time spent being trained.

What is the maximum amount of time a worker can work?

Subject to certain exceptions, a worker can work a maximum of 48 hours in a week, which is calculated over a 17-week reference period. Therefore, only after the maximum amount of hours has been exceeded in a 17-week period will an employer be in breach of the WTR. 

Workers and employers should note that a worker has the option of opting out of the 48-hour working week, and this can be done by written agreement. A worker can also revert back in to the 48-hour working week, to do this they must inform their employer in writing by giving no more than three months' notice.

The local authority and Health and Safety Executive monitor and enforce an employer’s compliance with the 48-hour working week. 

What rest breaks is a worker entitled to?

The WTR determines the rest breaks a worker is entitled to:

  • 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.

Working Nights:

A night worker is any person who works for at least three hours during the night time, which, subject to a contrary agreement, is defined to be between 23:00 and 06:00. 

A night time worker must not work more than an average of 8 hours per day over the week. However, as they are entitled to one day off a week, the WTR calculates the hours worked by six days. Therefore if a night worker works 12 hours a day over four days it would be compliant with the 8-hour average. 

It is worth noting that due to the demands and greater strain that is placed on night time workers they are entitled to a free health assessment at regular intervals.

Breach of Working Time Regulations?

If an employer is deemed to be in breach of the WTR a worker may have a remedy in the form of compensation that is just and equitable in all the circumstances and/or a declaration.

If you're concerned about any issues you may have in the workplace, feel free to contact us.

Article Disclaimer

This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific advice. You should not rely on the information in this article. Fiona Bruce Solicitors recommends that you seek our specific advice if you wish to rely on the any part of this article. Whilst Fiona Bruce Solicitors makes every effort to ensure that the article is accurate, Fiona Bruce Solicitors excludes all liability for claim, loss, demands or damages of any kind whatsoever (whether such claims, loss, demands or damages were foreseeable, known or otherwise) arising out of or in connection with the use of this article or any other information contained on this website. Any information provided only applies to England and Wales.