Understanding the Working Time Regulations

working time regulations

The Working Time Regulations 1998 outlines regulations related to paid annual leave, daily and weekly rest, night work and the number of hours worked in the week.

It’s not working out

You might feel that the Working Time Directive makes your life harder, especially when you’ve got a deadline looming but you must be aware that this policy is in place to protect the health and safety of your people.

Working Time Regulations govern how long your employees can work without breaks. Legally, you can’t undertake a weekly working time of more than 48 hours on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks. It determines maximum weekly hours, holiday entitlement as well as daily and weekly rest periods. You might sometimes feel like it’s not good for the business but it’s vital for your team’s Health & Safety.

You don’t want an exhausted and demotivated team, but Working Time regulations can seem impossible to balance with client and customer demands.

The exceptions

It’s important that you look at your people’s employment contracts as this will determine their working hours. For example, young workers who are under 18 can’t work more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week and this applies to apprentices. There are individuals who can work more than 48 hours a week on average and these people fall under the following categories:

  • where 24-hour staffing or night workers are required
  • in the armed forces, emergency services or police
  • in security and surveillance
  • as a domestic servant in a private household
  • as a seafarer, sea-fisherman or work on vessels on inland waterways
  • where working time is not measured and you’re in control, e.g. you’re a managing executive with control over your decisions

Can you opt out of the 48-hour week?

You may be happy to know that if an employee is over the age of 18, they can choose to sign an opt out agreement which declares they agree to work more than the average of 48 hours a week. This option of working time regulations opt-out doesn’t apply to everyone however, and the individuals this doesn’t apply to are:

  • airline staff
  • a worker on ships or boats
  • a worker in the road transport industry, e.g. delivery drivers (except for drivers of vehicles under 3.5 tonnes using GB Domestic drivers’ hours rules)
  • other staff who travel in and operate vehicles covered by EU rules on drivers’ hours, e.g. bus conductors
  • a security guard on a vehicle carrying high-value goods

If your employee changes their mind and would like to cancel their opt-out agreement, they are able to do so even if it’s stated in their contract. They must provide you with at least seven days’ notice or up to three months’ notice if you have provided them with a written opt-out agreement.

We’re here for you

Our HR & Employment Law experts can help you make Working Time work for your business objectives, without it costing you any more time or money.

Our highly qualified team will first learn about what you want to achieve. We’ll examine your business, looking at how you currently manage things like working hours, rest breaks and annual leave entitlements and suggest ways to make it efficient. We’ll look at relevant regulations, like night working or health assessments. And we’ll put better working practices in place, so Working Time runs like clockwork.

Talk to us about how we can save you time.

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