Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations came into force on the 1st October 1998. It is a law made to implement a Directive made by the European Union and applies to employment law in the UK. The law applies to full-time, part-time, agency and casual workers from the day they begin work.

Basic Rights
The basic rights under the Working Time Regulations are as follows:
  • Limit of an average of 48 hours per week which a worker may be required to work, however, they can opt-out of this limit and work more if they want to.
  • Limit of an average 8 hours work every 24 hours for night workers.
  • Free health assessments for night workers.
  • 11 hours rest in every 24 hours.
  • A minimum of one day off per week.
  • Rest break during working hours if the working day is longer than 6 hours.
  • A minimum of 28 days paid leave per year, see below:
However, these include time-off for bank and public holidays in the additional entitlement. Payment instead of taking holiday will not be permitted, except on termination of employment
Extended Provisions
Since 1st August 2003 rights under the Working Time Regulations extended to the following, (previously excluded) workers:
  • Non-mobile workers in road, sea, inland waterways and lake transport.
  • Workers in the railway and offshore oil and gas sectors.
  • Workers in the aviation industry, not covered by Aviation Directive.
However, these new regulations still do not cover some workers within the groups above and sea fishermen.
Junior Doctors
Rights under the Working Time Regulations were also extended to junior doctors from 1st August 2004 onwards. 
It also does not cover workers whose time is unmeasured, because they can choose when to work, e.g. managing executives within a company.
More Detail
Employees need not work more than 48 hours per week averaged over a 17-week period (unless they choose to). They are also entitled to the minimum paid holiday entitlement per year, please see above.
Workers 18 and over have a right to a 20-minute break where the working day is longer than six hours, also, a rest period of 11 consecutive hours between each working day, (unless working on a shift pattern) and a 24 hour rest period in each seven days. For night-workers, the average daily hours of work are 8, averaged over a 17-week period. Night-workers are entitled to free regular health assessments to ensure they are fit for night work.
Different rules apply to workers over 16 but under 18. For example, if they work from 10 pm to 6 am workers are entitled to health assessments. They are entitled to 48 hours rest in each 7-day period worked and a 30-minute break if they have worked more than 4.5 hours in any day.
If an employee is selected for redundancy or is dismissed for taking their entitled break period or paid holidays this could amount to Unfair Dismissal.
An employer and employee can enter into an individual written agreement to exclude the 48-hour entitlement, and the worker is entitled to bring the agreement to an end without the employer's consent.
However, collective or workforce agreements cannot modify or exclude the 48 hours entitlement but can extend the period over which the hours are averaged. (A collective or workforce agreement can modify or exclude the 48 hours entitlement in the case of night workers.)
It is not possible to contract out of the other provisions of the Working Time Regulations.