Hours ― the Working Time Regulations

Produced by Tolley

The following Employment Tax guidance note Produced by Tolley provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Hours ― the Working Time Regulations
  • Introduction
  • Brexit
  • The maximum working week
  • Opting out of the maximum working week
  • Daily rest periods
  • Weekly rest periods
  • Rest breaks
  • Special case exemptions
  • On call
  • More...

Hours ― the Working Time Regulations


Workers and employers are free to agree any hours of work they choose up to the maximum working hours set out in SI 1998/1833 (WTR 1988). Those regulations implement the European Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) and are sometimes known by that label. In addition to regulating the hours that most workers work, those regulations place limits on the average working week, provide for statutory leave entitlement, place limits on night-time working hours and limit the hours that can be worked by young workers.

There are various exclusions from and exception to the various provisions in the WTR 1988. These are detailed at the end of this guidance note (see ‘Exclusions from the Working Time Regulations’ below).

Where there is any chance that a worker who is within the scope of the regulations may have to work hours or shift patterns that are close to the Working Time Regulations (WTR) maximums, contractual terms relating to hours should be drafted with the main provisions of the WTR in mind. See the Written statement of particulars or terms and conditions guidance note.

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

The 48-hour maximum working weekSI 1998/1833, reg 4(1)
Opting out of the 48 hour maximum working weekSI 1998/1833, reg 5
Night workingSI 1998/1833, regs 6, 6A and 7
Daily rest periodsSI 1998/1833, reg 10(1)
Weekly rest periodsSI 1998/1833, reg 11
Rest breaksSI 1998/1833, regs 8 and 12
Special case exemptions and working through breaksSI 1998/1833, reg 24


The UK negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement and left the EU on 31 January 2020 (referred to as ‘exit day’) with an 11-month implementation period up to 31 December 2020. While exit day was important in terms of being the date the UK ceased to be an EU member state, the majority of key domestic tax and social security changes associated with Brexit take effect from the end of the implementation period (specifically, 11pm (GMT) on 31

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