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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

There has been some confusion to date about whether the time spent travelling by mobile workers is considered to be ‘working time’. This issue may affect some charities, in particular those who provide domiciliary care services, where employees work from a number of clients’ homes. The guidance from Acas, as at October 2019, is that:

‘Mobile workers who have no fixed place of work (sometimes called peripatetic workers), and travel straight from their home to their first job should have this considered as working time. There is however no automatic right to be paid for this time. A worker should check their contract to see whether they should be paid.’

The key points to note are:

  • time spent travelling during the working day is considered to be working time
  • time spent travelling to the first job is considered to be working time
  • time spent travelling from the last job to home is considered to be working time.

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.

For further information, see

On call

Some organisations require their workers to be on-call (sometimes called stand-by) outside of their usual working hours. Whether this time should count as part of their working hours depends on the conditions attached to the on-call time.

If the worker is free to be at home and to pursue leisure activities, then only the time spent actually working would generally be classed as working hours.

If the worker has to be at their place of work then all the on-call time should usually be classed as working hours, whether the worker is required to work or not.

In some circumstances an employer may not require the worker to be at work but may put other restrictions on them such as:

  • having to be able to get to work within a certain period of time
  • having to be awake at certain times
  • limits on drinking alcohol.

The more restrictions that are put on a worker who is on-call, the more likely it is that the entirety of the time should be considered as part of their working hours.

Further information

Page last edited Oct 25, 2019

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