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Working time Regulations

January 19th, 2010

What limits are there on working time?

The working Time Regualtions provide the following:-

· Right to breaks during working hours
· A maximum number of hours in a working week
· A maximum number of hours for night workers
· Minimum breaks between shifts
· Minimum weekly breaks
· Right to paid holiday (see separate holidays)

Breaks during a shift

Workers are entitled to a 20 minute break after 6 hours work.

A young worker (Age 16 – 18) is entitled to a 30 minute break after 4.5 hours of work.

Minimum Daily and weekly Breaks

A worker is entitled to a minimum of 11 hours break between shifts (12 hours for a young worker, age 16 – 18)

A worker is entitled to a minimum of 24 hours break once a week or 48 hours one a fortnight (2 days for a young worker, age 16 – 18)
Further details in relation to rest breaks

Different regulations apply to workers in air, sea or road transport

Road Transport

Air Transport

Sea Transport

Maximum working hours

An employee cannot be required to work an average of more than 48 hours per week unless they have previously opted out in writing.

To calculate whether a worker has exceeded the limit, an average is taken over 17 weeks.

After a worker has signed an agreement to opt out of the 48-hour limit, they can opt back in, but the employer is entitled to require up to 3 months notice that an employee wants to cancel the opt out, by stating this in the original opt out agreement. If no notice period is given in the opt out agreement, the employee only needs to give 1 week’ notice.

A young worker (Age 16 – 18) cannot be required to work more than 8 hours in any one day, nor more than 40 hours in any one week. No opt out is available in respect of young workers.

More details on the 48-hour maximum working week

Young Workers

More details on the rights of young workers

Night Workers

Workers who regularly work at nigh (between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.) cannot be required to work more than an average of 8 hours in any 24 hour period.

If their work is involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain then they cannot be required to work more than 8 hours in any 24 hour period

Night workers are also entitle to free health assessments.

Further details for nightworkers

Sunday working

Further details

ACAS guide

Holiday rights

Workers have the right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid holiday. Bank Holidays can form part of the 5.6 weeks.

Further details see “Holiday Rights.” 

How the Working Time Regulations can be enforced

Employers are obliged to keep records of working time for each employee.
The Health & Safety Executive, Local Authorities and various transport authorities have the power to take enforcement action, make inspections, serve notices on employers and prosecute offences under the Working Time Regulations.

However, in the vast majority of cases, workers enforce their rights by starting a claim in the Employment Tribunal. A Tribunal can award compensation to employees where employers breach the regulations. Any claim must be brought within 3 months of the most recent breach in the Working Time Regulations.

In some cases an employee may be able to claim that a breach of the Regulations entitles them to resign and claim unfair “constructive” dismissal. See Constructive Dismissal

Protection of workers who assert their rights

A worker has the right not to be subjected to a detriment in their work if they refuse to work in breach of the regulations, refuse to give up a right under the regulations or bring a claim asserting that the employer is in breach of the Regulations.

An employee who is dismissed for asserting their rights in this way or bringing a claim is regarded as unfairly dismissed.

Enforcing rights

There is no minimum qualifying period of employment required for an employee to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal, in respect of either of these potential claims, but the claim must be received by the Tribunal within 3 months of the dismissal or detriment.

Before sending a claim to the Employment Tribunal the employee must have a certificate from ACAS confirming that conciliation has been attempted. In some circumstances, the time for bringing a claim can be extended as long as the employee has registered for pre claim conciliation with ACAS, using the mandatory ACAS Conciliation procedure within 3 months of the date of the incident complained of, but there are still strict time limits for the employee to submit the claim to the Employment Tribunal once that period of conciliation has come to an end.

Any claim to an Employment Tribunal must include certification from ACAS that conciliation has been attempted and must be accompanied by the Employment Tribunal fee or a valid and fully evidenced application for a fee remission. If any of these are missing, or if the application from has not been correctly completed or if documents or information is missing, the application will not be accepted and it will be returned to the employee.


ACAS Guidance


Please note that the information on this page is intended to be a guideline and is therefore a summary of the law only and not a complete guide. Before taking any action based on this information you are strongly advised to take legal advice. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained on this page is up to date and accurate, no guarantee can be given to this effect.

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