Working Time Regulations UK

  • Working Time
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Working Time Regulations and holiday allowances can prove confusing. Predictably, this confusion results in several mistakes that happen time and time again. Click here to learn how to avoid costly mistakes

Working Time Regulations (sometimes abbreviated to WTR) and holiday allowances can prove confusing. They are one of the key areas of business management and, sometimes, one of the easiest to slip up on.

Unfortunately, these mistakes can cost the businesses that make them. Not only can you face costly sanctions if they find you have not done this, but you may also see a negative impact on your staff.

This is because the law is in place to help ensure their continued wellbeing whilst working for you.

Here, we’ll look at what the regulations are, how to keep your employees happy and how to stay compliant.

What are the working time regulations?

When considering the question of what is working time regulations, the quick answer is they are the regulations by which the UK puts into place its obligations under the EU’s Working Time Directive. 

They put a limit on the number of hours that workers can work each week. The basic rights the regulations entitle employees to are:

  • Required to work an average of/only 48 hours a week, unless they specifically opt-out.
  • Entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid time off per year.
  • Allowed 11 consecutive hours' rest per 24-hour period.
  • Entitled to a 20-minute rest break (for working days longer than six hours).
  • Meant to have 11 hours of rest between working days.
  • 24 hours after one week or 48 hours after two weeks
  • Not allowed to work over eight hours - for night shifts - in any 24-hour period.
  • Restricted to 8-hours per day and 40-hours per week if they are aged 16-18.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 are in place to protect workers from excessive hours. They also allow for paid annual leave and include employees' rights to rest breaks and uninterrupted periods of rest.

Breach of working time regulations

There are several potential penalties for breach of working time regulations. Any worker or other person injured because of an employer's negligence in failing to provide safe working conditions may sue for compensation in the civil courts.

These include:

  • A potentially unlimited criminal fine
  • Compensation for workers through an employment tribunal.

Employment law working time regulations

In most instances, the maximum working week for adults in the UK must not exceed an average of 48 hours over 17 weeks, unless there has been an agreed opt-out. Companies can change the average time through a collective agreement.

Staff can sign a working time regulations opt out if they are happy to exceed this working limit. However, if a worker claims their right not to work over 48 hours per week, they should not suffer any disadvantage as a result (e.g. being passed over for a promotion, for example).

When considering working time regulations breaks, it entitles all adult workers to a 20-minute unpaid rest break for a shift of 6 hours or more. This can be managed by making sure all staff take a lunch break.

They should also receive, between working days, at least 11 hours rest. When considering weekly rest, Working Time Regulations law also provides 48 hours rest per fortnight Or 24 hours per week . Many companies manage this by letting staff have weekends off.

For young workers (aged 15-18) the maximum is 40 hours, with no opt-out, and at least 12 hours of rest per 24 hours and 48 hours of rest per week.

There are also protections in night work which must not exceed eight hours on average. There are additional areas covered by the Working Time Regulations, on call time, overtime, travelling as part of work, training and working lunches all count towards those 48 hours.

The 48 hours rule does not apply for some sectors or the rest period can be applied differently – but these areas normally have their own separate rules on working time.

Part-time working regulations in the UK

The above laws on working time also apply to staff who work part-time. Of course, because of part-time working’s nature, it is unlikely that they will exceed 48 hours.

Working time regulations annual leave

The Working Time Regulations provide staff with the right to take paid holidays.

The minimum statutory requirement for full-time employees or workers is 28 days or 5.6 weeks, which can include public holidays.

The minimum statutory entitlement of part-time employees or workers is based on the time that they work.

So, a part-time employee who works 2.5 days per week is entitled to 14 days' paid holiday per year or 2.8 weeks, including public holidays.

Working time regulations holiday pay

Staff who work fixed, full-time hours should be paid their usual salaries for taking holidays. However, this can be tricky when working time regulations holiday pay calculation for staff who work irregular hours, such as zero-hours workers.

Expert support on Working Time Regulations with Peninsula

By striving to adhere to working time regulations, and providing a support framework for employees, businesses can make a positive impact on employee wellbeing – so contact us today for more information.

To ensure you adhere to working time regulations, Peninsula provides a comprehensive service. First, we can draft bespoke contracts of employment for you; the employee's agreed we can write working hours into their contract, with additional clauses covering overtime and other special circumstances. As with any information in a contract of employment, this ensures both employer and employee are fully aware of their obligations.

Get our expert team to draft policy for you. Peninsula clients get access to 24/7 HR to consult our specialists on or secure air-tight contracts with our document experts.

And if you’re not yet a client, you can still enjoy a free advice call from one of our business experts. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420.


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