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Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations (WTR) define holidays, rest periods and maximum working hours for your employees. The regulations are law, enforceable by the Health & Safety Executive who can levy improvement notices and unlimited fines for companies in breach of them. The below article explains the key points with regards to working time regulations:

Working hours

In general, the working time regulations provide the right to:

  • A maximum 48-hour week (on an average taken over 17 weeks), though individuals can choose to opt out and work longer
  • 4 weeks’ paid annual leave each year (in addition to paid public holidays)
  • 11 consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period
  • A 20-minute break when the working day is longer than six hours
  • One day off each week
  • A limit of an average eight hour working period (in every 24 hours) for night workers

There are additional regulations for young workers (16-17 year olds), who are entitled to:

  • A working day of no more than 8 hours
  • A working week of no more than 40 hours
  • 30 minutes’ break where work lasts more than 4.5 hours
  • 2 days off each week

The working time regulations apply to full and part-time workers, and most agency workers and freelancers.

Opting out

Workers can work beyond the 48-hour limit where they have agreed this in writing. Workers can cancel their opt-outs with a minimum of 7 days’ notice. Employers can agree longer notice periods of up to 3 months.

Young people cannot usually opt-out.


Overtime (ie hours worked in addition to normal full time hours) can be voluntary or compulsory.

Surprisingly, businesses are not legally obliged to pay extra for overtime, although convention and employer/employee relations mean additional pay remains the norm.

Night workers

In addition to the 8 hours in any 24-hour period limit, night workers, defined as anyone working 3 or more hours between the hours of 11pm and 6am, are entitled to regular health checks.

As an employer, you must offer health checks before any member of staff starts working nights, and on a regular basis while the night working continues. Note that whilst you must offer, an employee does not have to accept.

Mobile workers

In 2015, the European Court of Justice made a ruling affecting mobile workers who do not have a fixed place of work. The ruling stated that where the working day consists of travelling from home to meet customers, the worker should have the travel time before the first meeting and following the last meeting considered as working time.

The ruling has yet to be tested in the UK, but as an employer, be aware that the additional time could take a worker beyond the 6-hour threshold for a break, the 11-hour rest period or the 48-hour average working week.

ACAS recommends checking contracts reflect this ruling. We recommend ensuring your time and attendance systems are revised so that mobile workers’ hours are recorded correctly.

To ensure your workforce management systems are compatible with the WTR, talk to us on 01942 272061 or contact us

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