Working Hours – Employee Hours & Break Entitlement

Last Updated
July 20, 2010

The number of hours an employee can work is governed by the Working Time Regulations (1998). The following working conditions are for employees aged 18 or over. For young workers, who are aged under 18, see the young workers section at the bottom of the page.

Maximum weekly working time

  • An employees average working time must not exceed 48 hours for each seven-day period.
  • An employee can work over the average working time of 48 hours for each seven-day period if they have stated in writing that the limit should not apply.
  • You must take reasonable steps to ensure employees don’t exceed the 48 hour limit, including hours covered by a second job where the employee is working for someone else.
  • Employee working hours cover the time an employee is at the disposal of their employer. Travelling to/from work is not classed as working hours unless it forms part of business travel for business activities.

Length of night work

  • An employee working nights must not have their average normal hours of work exceed eight hours in each 24-hour period.
  • Night workers are entitled to receive free health assessments.

Rest periods

  • An employee is entitled to a minimum of 11 consecutive hours rest in each 24-hour period.
  • An employee is entitled to a minimum of: one uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours in each seven-day period; or two uninterrupted rest periods of 24 hours in each 14-day period; or one uninterrupted rest period of 48 hours in each 14-day period.

Rest breaks

  • An employee is entitled to a rest break where the working day is more than six hours.
  • The rest break should be a minimum of one uninterrupted period of 20 minutes.
  • During the rest break, an employee is entitled to leave their work station.
  • The rest break cannot be at the end of the shift.

Young workers

Young workers are those employees aged under 18.

  • The regulations restrict the working hours of young workers to eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.
  • Except in certain specific circumstances, young workers cannot work between the hours of 10pm to 6am or 11pm to 7am.
  • A young worker is entitled to a minimum of 12 consecutive hours rest in each 24-hour period.
  • The minimum rest period for young workers may be interrupted in the case of activities involving periods of work that are split up over the day or of short duration.
  • A young worker is entitled to a minimum of one uninterrupted rest period of 48 hours in each seven-day period.
  • The rest period for a young worker may be interrupted if the activities involve periods of work that are split up over the day or are of short duration or reduced where this is justified by technical or organisation reasons. In these circumstances young workers must get a minimum of one uninterrupted rest period of 36 hours in each seven-day period.
  • An young worker is entitled to a rest break where the working day is more than four-and-a-half hours.
  • The rest break should be a minimum of one uninterrupted period of 30 minutes.

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