Hours of work and working time
Hours of work and working time

The following Employment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Hours of work and working time
  • Working time defined
  • The maximum working week
  • Opting out of the maximum working week
  • Daily rest periods
  • Weekly rest periods
  • Rest breaks
  • Special case exemptions: compensatory rest
  • On call time
  • Night work
  • more

Workers and employers are free to agree any hours of work they choose up to the maximum working hours set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998, SI 1998/1833 (WTR 1998).

Where there is any chance that a worker may have to work hours or shift patterns that are close to the WTR 1998 maximums, contractual terms relating to hours should be drafted with the main provisions of the WTR 1998 in mind.

If, for example, it is intended that hours of work should be zero hours, an express contractual term to that effect should be included in the employment contract. Where there is no such term, and there is instead an express contractual term that working hours will be specified by the employee's line manager, an employee may have a contractual entitlement to guaranteed hours of work. For further information on zero hours contracts generally, and the legislation applicable to them, see Practice Note: Zero hours contracts.

Certain job sectors are excluded or partially excluded from the ambit of the WTR 1998. There are other cases where the regulations do not apply. These are discussed in Practice Note: Working time defences and exceptions.

The areas of the WTR 1998 which impact on working hours are:

  1. the 48-hour maximum working week

  2. opting out of the 48-hour maximum working week

  3. daily rest periods

  4. weekly rest periods