The Main Provisions of the Working Time Regulations

Site updated on February 17, 2020

These Regulations are intended to protect workers from the risks that arise out of working excessively long hours or working for long periods without breaks or without holidays. Some exclusions apply to Domestic staff working in the home, Armed Forces personnel and Police Officers. Essentially it is health and safety law.

Providing you qualify, you now have the following rights:

  • A maximum average working week (including overtime) of not more that 48 hours (or 40 hours for younger workers, aged under 18). The averaging period is 17 working weeks unless agreed otherwise in a workplace agreement.

NOTE: You can decide to “opt out” of the regulations and work longer hours if you choose to. This should be an individual decision and voluntary – your Employer should not force you to opt out. In theory, an opt out should not be contained in an offer letter, but Employers do sometimes do this. If you do opt out you may change your mind and give notice to opt back in. The notice required should be shown on the opt out form, but in any event cannot be more than 3 months. You should write to your Employer to make your decision clear. There is no opting out of the rights to breaks.

If you need help on this, please contact our help line.

If you are sacked, or disciplined, for working at or below a 48 hour week, it is automatically an unfair dismissal – take it further! You do not need 2 years service.

  •  A 20 minute rest break where the working day exceeds 6 hours (a 30 minute rest break in the case of a young worker where the working day exceeds 4 ½ hours. A young worker is someone who is over the age of 15 but has not yet reached the age of 18.)
  • A minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period (a 12 hour rest period in the case of a young worker).
  • A minimum of 24 hours rest every 7 days (one day off per week or two days off per fortnight). This rest period does not have to be or include a weekend. (A young worker is entitled to 48 hours rest in every 7 days, ie, 2 days per week.)
  • An average night shift length of 8 hours in any 24 hour period. (This cannot be averaged where the work involves heavy physical or mental strain.)
  • A free health assessment (not necessarily a full medical) to night workers. This should be offered prior to workers being assigned to night work and at regular (annually would probably suffice) intervals thereafter. Night workers can also request a transfer to day work.
  • A minimum of 28 days paid annual leave -if you work a five day week or more – much of this leave cannot be carried over to the next year or traded in for cash payments. However, there is nothing to force an employee into taking the leave to which they are entitled!
  • You should be allowed to carry over holiday leave where you have been unable to take it during the relevant holiday year – this would normally be during spells of long term sickness or perhaps maternity leave.
  • Case law is making it clear that when you go on holiday, you should be paid what you would normally earn, including overtime and other payments linked to working.

Any worker who feels they have suffered a detriment or been dismissed for taking entitlements under the working time regulations can take a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

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