Working time regulations

Working time regulations


Employees have many rights. They are entitled to the right to not be unfairly dismissed and to earn the National Minimum Wage. They are also entitled to work no more than a certain number of hours per week.

In this article, the Smart Team explain what the Working Time Regulations are and how it affects you and your employees.


What are Working Time Regulations?

Working Time Regulations legislate on how much rest employees are entitled to per day and per week. The regulations were introduced in 1998. The regulations also cover what an employer must do when an employee is unable to take a rest break during work


What is an employee entitled to?

The Working Time Regulations say that an employee is entitled to:

  • A minimum daily rest period of 11 hours uninterrupted rest between the time that they finish a day’s work and when they start the following day. This increases to 12 hours if the employee is aged between 15-18.
  • A weekly rest period of at least 24 hours uninterrupted rest between the last day’s work of the week and the start of the first day’s work the following week. Workers aged between 15-18 are entitled to 48 hours. The weekly rest period should not include any part of the daily rest period.
  • A break of 20 minutes if your working day is longer than 6 hours. This rest time extends to 30 minutes for 15-18-year-olds who work more than a 4.5 hour stretch.

If the employee is an agency worker, it is the agency who is responsible for ensuring that the employee receives these rights.


Are there any exceptions?

There are special cases in which employees might be asked to work through their break times. For example, if:

  • An employee is a shift worker. Shift workers can work twice in the same day as they will often succeed each another as they’re taking up the same station. This means that shift patterns may not be continuous and the daily rest is not applicable.
  • There is a genuine need to maintain 24-hour service. Some machines need to be operated all the time. An example of this is in a hospital where doctors cannot always take an adequate break.
  • Work is interrupted by unusual and unforeseen circumstances. For instance, if an accident or risk affects your workplace and an employee is needed to resolve the situation.
  • There is an unexplained surge in activity. For example, an unusually large number of customers enter a shop and they need to be served.
  • The employee has signed a workplace agreement to forgo their workplace resting rights. You must fully consult with your employee before asking them to sign the document.


What is compensatory rest?

If an employee has missed an amount of rest due to additional work commitments, they are entitled to compensatory rest. A compensatory rest break is the same amount of time that the employee has missed. A worker may be entitled to compensatory rest if:

  • They are doing security or surveillance work,
  • Their workplace is a long way from home (for example, an oil rig),
  • They work in the rail industry onboard trains.
  • Each employee is entitled to a total of 90 hours rest a week. If a staff member works a standard 37.5-hour work week, they will have 130.5 hours of rest a week.

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