Working hours and breaks

The hours an individual works and the breaks they are entitled to during working hours are regulated by the Working Time Regulations 1998.


Employers may offer more generous terms and conditions in contracts of employment but, in general, they cannot agree with the employee to provide less than the Working Time Regulations.

The maximum working week


The maximum working week, including overtime, is now set at 48 hours per week when averaged over a 17 weeks reference period. This calculation method means that workers can be required to work more than 48 hours in any given week, provided that the average over the reference period does not exceed 48 hours per week.

 

Night workers normally cannot be required to work more than 8 hours in each 24 hour period, when averaged over the reference period. An employer should keep adequate records to show that the requirements surrounding working hours are being complied with.

 

An individual can agree to exceed the 48 hour working week by giving his/her written consent to their employer. Equally, it is possible to revoke this consent by giving 7 days written notice (or up to one month, if the employer has .

 

Weekly rest period


Adult workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 24 hours in each seven-day period. An employer can stipulate that this is taken as two uninterrupted rest periods of at least 24 hours in each 14-day period, or one uninterrupted rest period of at least 48 hours in each 14-day period, meaning that no one is required to work more than 12 consecutive days without a break.

 

Young workers (under 18) are entitled to at least 48 hours in each seven-day period.

 

Rest breaks


Workers are entitled to a rest break if they work more than six hours in a day.

 

The length of the rest break and the way in which it is taken can be determined by collective or workforce agreements. However the rest break (which is unpaid) must be an uninterrupted period of at least 20 minutes away from the place of work. It also must be a ‘break’ and cannot be taken either at the start, or at the end, of the working time.

 

Young workers (namely those who are over compulsory school age, but under 18) are entitled to a rest break of 30 minutes where the daily working time is more than four and a half hours.

 

Daily rest


Adult workers are entitled to a rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period. This means that there should be a break of at least 11 hours between the end of one working day and the beginning of the next.

 

Young workers are entitled to at least 12 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period.

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Zero increases by 26%

The Office for National Statistics has released new figures that show nearly 700,000 people work on zero hours contracts - up 26% from last year.  The problems caused by these contracts will require a significant change in the law.

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