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Working time

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You have certain obligations towards employees under the Working Time Regulations 1998. These obligations are set out below.

The 48-hour maximum working week

The maximum time that workers should work is 48 hours per week (on average, normally over 17 weeks) and includes hours worked at all the employers for which the individual works.

If you are in any doubt as to whether any of your employees may be exceeding 48 hours per week on average (including any work undertaken elsewhere), you will need to discuss it with them and if necessary agree with them an ‘opt-out’ of the Working Time Regulations. Please note that employees have the right to subsequently cancel the opt-out, giving at least seven days’ notice.

The 48-hour limit works differently for some occupations, such as where 24-hour staffing is required.

For further information, visit GOV.UK’s Maximum weekly working hours information or Acas’ guidance on working hours.   

Rest breaks and rest periods

Your employees should be given minimum rest breaks and rest periods, as follows:

  • A minimum of 20 minutes’ unpaid rest during the working day, where the working day is longer than six hours.
  • Eleven consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period.
  • One day off per week, or two days off per fortnight.

If a worker is required to work during a rest period, they may take ‘compensatory rest’ at another time, normally of the same duration as the break or part of the break that they missed.

Young workers

There are additional regulations concerning working hours for young workers (under 18) and individuals who work at night. If this may be relevant to your organisation, see Acas’ guidance on employing younger workers to check your obligations.

Mobile workers

Acas reports on a case about mobile workers that may affect some charities, in particular those who provide domiciliary care services, where employees are working from a number of clients’ homes. The information is produced below. If this may affect you and you are unsure as to what to do, you are advised to call Acas on their free helpline at 0300 123 1100 and then seek legal or HR advice as needed.

Working Time Directive - Mobile workers - September 2015

The European Court of Justice, in a recent case gave the judgement that mobile workers who have no fixed place of work, and spend time travelling from home to the first and last customer should have this time considered as working time. The Court added that because the workers are at the employer's disposal for the time of the journeys, they act under their employer's instructions and cannot use that time freely to pursue their own interest.

Acas is assessing the impact of this judgement on workers and employers in Great Britain and will provide more detailed guidance when it is available.

Employers and employees should be aware that this may have an impact on breaks if the working day is extended as a result of travelling time. It is also worth checking employment contracts to see what they say about travelling time.

Further information

Page last edited Jun 28, 2018

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