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Working Time Limits

17th September 2013

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) provide for normal working hours for employees.

Employees normal working hours should be included in their employment contracts, and their terms of employment should also state what working patterns are involved in the job. Even if employees do not have a written employment contract, they must still be provided with written particulars of the main terms and conditions of their employment, and this includes working hours.

Employees should not work on average more than 48 hours per week and this will include for example, work-related training, working lunches, and overtime. This average is calculated over a 17 week period.

Employees are entitled to regular rest breaks, for example, employees should be given 20 minutes for each 6 hour shift period. Employers can determine the breaks timing, although it should not be offered at the beginning or end of a shift. Employees are also entitled to regular rest periods between their working days, with a minimum of 11 hours rest between each working day.

The Working Time Regulations also cover the right to paid holidays, rest breaks, and limits on night working. Employees are also entitled to 1 day off a week, averaged over a 2 week period. This may equate to 2 days off each fortnight. Those who work for 3 hours or more during the night (usually classed as between 11pm and 6 am) on a regular basis will be classed as night workers. Night workers should not work for more than 8 hours in each 24 hour period, excluding any overtime that they my do. Employees are not able to opt-out of these limits.

Employees over the age of 18 can choose to opt-out of the Working Time Regulations. Opting-out must be voluntary on part of the employee, and must be in writing. They must not be disadvantaged or discriminated against if they refuse to opt-out of the Regulations. Employees can cancel at any time by giving at least 1 weeks notice to their employer, however this notice period can be agreed between the employee and the employer.

Employers must keep records of hours worked by their employees to show compliance with the Working Time Regulation.

Special rules apply, for example, to young people, those who freely choose their own working hours, such as senior managers, and members of the armed forces or emergency forces. Special rules also apply for mobile transport workers. Those aged between 16 and 18 must not be required to work more than 40 hours a week, or 8 hours a day, although some exceptions will apply.

Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.

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