Working hours


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What are the regulations?

We all dream of achieving a work / life balance, where we can commit to our career but also have enough time off to spend with our families. However, in this age of 24/7 businesses it’s not always easy. The Working Time Regulations were put in place to try and limit the amount of working hours any single person could do, but it’s not always clear what they cover. Here we explain exactly what the regulations state and any areas that are excluded.

What do the regulations say?

The aim of the Working Time Regulations is to create an average working week that applies to the majority of workers. It also provides an entitlement for paid holidays and specific regulations for night workers and younger workers. The Regulations state:

– No worker can do over 48 hours a week, unless they’ve voluntarily opted out

– Employees should be allowed 5.6 weeks annual paid holiday

– Workers must be given at least 11 consecutive hours off within any 24 hours

– For shifts over 6 hours there must be a 20 minute break

– Workers should have one full day off a week

– Night workers must be limited to 8 hour shifts in a 24 hour period and they require regular health check-ups

These regulations apply to the majority of workers over 18, including both full and part time employees. There is specific guidance for 16-17 year olds. They can only work for 8 hours a day and a maximum of 40 hours a week. For any shift over 4 ½ hours they must have at least a 30 minute break and need 2 full days off a week.

working hours

What constitutes work?

The areas that actually count to your working week can be confusing. Your average weekly hours will include:

– Work related training

– Regular travelling for work, such as sales representatives and trades people

– Business lunches

– Paid and certain unpaid overtime

– Hours spent on call if you’re at work

– Some types of work when you’re abroad

However, these areas don’t count towards your hours:

– Breaks

– Daily commuting

– Hours on call if you’re at home

– Non work related training

– Travelling if it’s not in working hours

– Voluntary unpaid overtime

– Holidays

Do the regulations cover all workers?

The majority of full and part time employees do have to abide by the regulations, including some agency and freelance staff. However, there are certain occupations that are exempt. These include:

– Workers where there is no way of measuring their time or senior staff who are in control of their own hours

– Some areas of the armed forces and emergency services

– Security and surveillance operatives

– Domestic staff in a private residence

– Where there’s a need for a 24 hour rotation of staff

– Some fishermen and boat workers

How do you opt out?

If you’re over the age of 18, then in some circumstances it’s possible to opt out of the maximum working hours. This must be done voluntarily in writing and you can’t be sacked for refusing to do so. There are certain occupations where you’re not permitted to opt out, including:

– Ship and airline staff

– Certain transport workers

– Security guards who transport high value items

Even if you’ve opted out, you can change this at any time by writing to your employer and giving them notice of your intentions.



About Catherine Stern

About Catherine Stern

Catherine Stern is a freelance writer with a background in marketing and PR. She currently writes web content on a range of subjects, from finance and business to travel and home improvements. As a working single mum of two young boys she understands the pressures that today’s working parents face and the topics they want to read about.

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