The law relating to maximum working hours and minimum hours of rest are set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). The provisions within the Regulations are considered to be a combination of both employment and health and safety requirements because they seek to ensure that employers do not attempt to have their workers at work for excessively long hours which can impact on their physical and mental welfare. Thankfully for employers, the Regulations acknowledge that, sometimes, it may not be possible for the strict rest period provisions to be stuck to in order for an organisation to run smoothly. Employers must generally ensure that their adult workers have:
- A 20 minute break where their working hours are more than 6 hours;
- An 11 hour rest period in a 24 hour period (generally this means 11 hours from when the employee is deemed to stop working on one day and start again the next day);
- A 24 hour weekly rest period which can either be taken as one 24 hour period per 7 days; or as one 48 hour period per 14 days.
- where the worker’s activities are such that his place of work and place of residence are distant from one another, including cases where the worker is employed in offshore work;
- where the work involves security and surveillance activities requiring permanent presence;
- where the worker’s activities involve the need for continuity of service, as may be the case in hospitals, prisons, airports, radio, television or the production of electricity, gas and water;
- where there is a foreseeable surge in activity e.g. tourism, agriculture etc
- where something happens which is unusual and unforeseen, beyond the control of the employer, or an accident or imminent risk of an accident.