Information on how to comply with Working Time Regulations and how to protect your employees

Working hours

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.

There are basic limits on working time and your employees’ entitlement to in-work breaks, periods of rest between shifts, and the legal minimum paid annual leave.

On this page you will find information on what is considered working hours. You will also find information to help you calculate your employees’ working hours.

Your responsibilities as an employer

You have a responsibility to ensure that you provide the basic rights and protections that the law requires. These include:

  • a right to 11 hours rest a day
  • a right to 1 day off each week
  • a limit of an average of eight hours work in 24 hours which night workers can be required to work
  • a right to an in-work rest break of at least 20 minutes if the working day is longer than six hours. This break must be taken during the work period and not at the end
  • adequate additional rest breaks for workers whose pattern of work puts their health and safety at risk
  • a right for night workers to receive free health assessments before commencing night work, and at regular intervals thereafter
  • a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work – workers can choose by written agreement to work more if they want to

Employees have a right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks paid annual leave, inclusive of bank holidays.

They also have the right to paid annual leave from their first day of employment. This accrues at one-twelfth of the annual entitlement per month worked.

A pro-rata entitlement is given to seasonal or casual employees and others who do not work for a full year, as well as to part-time workers.

What is included

Working hours can include:

  • working lunches such as business lunches
  • when a worker has to travel as part of their work
  • when a worker is undertaking training that is job related

If the worker is a home worker, or carries out work at home with prior agreement, then working lunches, travel and training are likely to be counted as working time.

You also need to consider the time employees spend:

  • waiting at the place of work for work to be allocated
  • abroad working, if a worker works for an employer who carries on business in Great Britain
  • working away from home, but not spent resting at the end of the working day, even if the worker is required to stay away from home overnight

When an employee is on call at the workplace, this will constitute working time. Only the time spent during the actual provision of services when on call but away from the workplace will count as working time, for example at home on Saturday but ‘on call’.

What is not included

Working hours does not include:

  • rest breaks when no work is done
  • routine travel between home and work
  • time spent travelling outside normal working time
  • training such as non-job-related evening classes or day-release courses

Calculating working hours

Average working hours are calculated over a 17-week period. Employees can work more than 48 hours a week (as long as the working time does not exceed 48 hours per week when it is averaged out over the 17-week period). If your employee has more than one job, then their working hours shouldn't exceed more than 48 hours a week on average.

Employees can offer their employee the following options:

  • sign an opt-out agreement
  • reduce working hours to meet the 48-hour limit

Where an employee is under 18, their hours cannot be averaged and they cannot work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours a week.

Night workers whose work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain is regulated by an absolute limit of 8 hours in any 24 hour period working each day. This is not an average.

There are a number of roles that are exempt, for example:

  • trainee doctors have a reference period of 26 weeks
  • offshore oil and gas sector reference period is 52 weeks

​You can use the Government’s working hours calculator to help you work out your employee’s working hours.

Find out more

You can find out more information on working hours on the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) website (external site).