Working hours options

Hours

How to comply with Working Time Regulations, and protect your employees

As an employer you must ensure that you know your responsibilities regarding working hours. You need to make sure that you comply with Working Time Regulations, and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees.

Use the links below to find out more.​​

  1. Working hours
  2. Working hours options
  3. Night working

2. Working hours options​

You have several options when it comes to agreeing employees' working hours and how to record them.

On this page you will find information on the options available and the regulations around them. You can also find information on how to record their working hours.

Opting out

Your employees can choose to opt out of working no more than 48 hours if they are over 18.

You can ask your employees to opt out but you cannot dismiss them or treat them unfairly if they refuse.

They can opt out for a certain period or indefinitely, but this must be voluntary and be put in writing. They can cancel the opt out agreement whenever they want even if it is part of the employment contract.

They must give you 7 days notice if they wish to cancel the agreement. Where there is a written opt out agreement the notice required may be as much as 3 months.

Under the law you are not able to force your employee to opt out or opt in to the agreement 

Employees under the age of 18 cannot work more than 40 hours.

Record keeping

There is a requirement for you to keep records that show that the weekly working time limit is complied with. You can determine what records need to be kept for this purpose.

You may be able to use existing records maintained for other purposes, such as pay, or can make new arrangements.

You only need to make occasional checks of workers who do standard hours and who are unlikely to reach the average 48-hour limit.

However, you should monitor the hours of workers who appear to be close to the working time limit. You need to make sure they do not exceed it. You must also keep an up-to-date record of workers who have agreed to work more than 48 hours a week.

Additionally, you must keep a record of any nightshift health assessments performed and the outcome. These records must be kept for two years.

You can find out more on our health surveillance guide.

Rest breaks

During the working day, an adult worker is entitled to a rest break if working more than 6 hours. The rest break should be for an uninterrupted period of no less than 20 minutes. However, details of this rest break, including the duration and if it is paid, can be agreed between you and the employee. There is an entitlement to spend that break away from the work station.

The break should be taken during the six-hour period, not at the beginning or end of it. Otherwise it can be taken at a time to be determined by you.

People under the age of 18 in Scotland are entitled to a 30 minute break if they are working over 4.5 hours.

Good practice, particularly when driving for work, suggests that more regular breaks should be taken.

You can find out more information about the Working Time Regulations on the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) website.

Visit the HSE site for Working Time Regulations

Rest periods

Daily

An adult worker is entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of no less than 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period. This goes up to 12 hours for people under the age of 18.

Adjustments from the regulations may be made regarding shift work by agreement. However, in most cases, compensatory rest must be provided.

Weekly

An adult worker is also entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in each seven-day period. Alternatively, if the employer so determines, either

  • two uninterrupted rest periods, each of not less than 24 hours, in each 14 day period
  • one uninterrupted rest period of not less than 48 hours in each 14 day period.

The entitlement to weekly rest is in addition to the 11 hour daily rest entitlement. This must be provided, except where objective or technical reasons would justify incorporating all, or part, of that daily rest into the weekly rest period.

Certain professions are excluded from the above requirements. You can find out more on the GOV.​UK​ website.​

Visit the GOV.UK site for more about rest breaks at work​​​