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Working hours

Key points

The working time regulations govern the hours most workers can work and set:

  • limits on a average working week
  • statutory entitlement to paid leave for most workers
  • limits on the normal hours of night work and regular health assessments
  • special regulations for young workers.

The Regulations apply to workers whether part- or full-time, including the majority of agency workers and freelancers, although certain categories of workers are excluded (see Appendix 5 of the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance ).

Working Hours

The way working hours are arranged can help an organisation to manage its business and help workers balance their responsibilities at work and at home. Working hours can greatly affect work-life balance. Many businesses are under pressure to satisfy demands 24/7 and must balance this with the needs of their workers. This is leading to a rise in a more flexible working approach, which includes flexitime, shift work, job sharing or home-working.

The Working Time Regulations determine the maximum weekly working time, pattern of work and holidays, plus the daily and weekly rest periods. They also cover the health and working hours of night workers. There are a small number of exceptions: certain regulations may be excluded or modified by a collective or workforce agreement, and certain categories of worker are excluded (see Appendix 5 of the Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance ).

In general the Working Time Regulations provide rights to:

  • a limit of an average 48 hours a week on the hours a worker can be required to work, though individuals may choose to work longer by "opting out"
  • 5.6 weeks' paid leave a year
  • 11 consecutive hours' rest in any 24-hour period
  • a 20-minute rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
  • one day off each week
  • a limit on the normal working hours of night workers to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.

There are special regulations for young workers, which restrict their working hours to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. The rest break is 30 minutes if their work last more than four and a half hours. They are also entitled to two days off each week.

Any proposals to change patterns of working are best carried out in a consultative way, explaining the reasons behind such a move and the benefits which may accrue to both the organisation and worker.

Acas Helpline

Call our Helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free support and advice or to check your workplace policies and practices. The Acas Helpline provides free and impartial advice for employers, employees and representatives on a range of employment relations, employment rights, HR and management issues.

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