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Regulations governing entitlements for annual leave, rest breaks while at work, non-working days and weekly breaks are known as the Working Time Regulations and are derived from the European Working Time Directive.

Working time regulations impose important obligations on employers to ensure that employees are not overworked or employed in environments that are detrimental to their health and wellbeing. A company is after all most productive and successful when employees are healthy, satisfied and capable of performing at their best.

The Working Time Regulations are often an area of business management that is easily overlooked by employers. A disregard for or underestimation of the importance of working time legislation can lead to grievances, complaints and employment tribunal action. For advice regarding your obligations as an employer under the Working Time Regulations, contact MBM Commercial. Our Employment Law Team will be on hand to provide pragmatic and commercially-focused advice specific to your business needs and employee culture. We can help identify your duties as an employer and offer holistic employment law services to ensure compliance across all aspects of your business; from employment contracts to performance management policies, employee incentive programmes, and overtime and night shift arrangements.  

By adhering to the Working Time Regulations and in turn creating a working environment that upholds and supports employee wellbeing and happiness, employers will make a meaningful impact on employee welfare and ultimately strengthen the long-term productivity and profitability of a business.

Employer’s Duties under the Working Time Directive

Businesses that require employees to undertake night shifts, overtime or on-call responsibilities as a matter of course are particularly vulnerable to infringements of the Working Time Regulations. Employers should be aware of their duties and responsibilities under the Working Time Directive:

  • Workers have a statutory right to a maximum average working week of 48 hours. In addition to this, there is an entitlement to 11 hours rest per day and 48 hours rest per fortnight.
  • Time spent training, travelling or on standby may be included in working hours in certain circumstances.
  • Workers an entitled to a 20-minute unpaid rest break for a shift period of six hours or more.
  • A worker who regularly works overtime which takes them over the statutory limit must sign an opt-out agreement with their employer.
  • For Young Workers (aged 15-18), the maximum working hours per week is 40 hours, with no opt-out option available. Employers must also provide Young Workers with at least 12 hours of rest per 24 hours and 48 hours of rest per week.
  • Night workers should not exceed an average of eight hours in each 24-hour period. Extra restrictions apply to night work involving special hazards or strain.
  • Workers are entitled to a health assessment before being required to perform night work.
  • Most employees have the right to make a written request for flexible working.

The purpose of the Working Time Regulations predominantly relates to health and safety and employee wellbeing in the workplace. Complaints from employees who believe that an employer is failing to adhere to the Regulations are therefore managed by the Health and Safety Executive. If an employer is found to be falling short of compliance with the Regulations, the Health and Safety Executive can impose financial penalties or escalate matters to an employment tribunal.

Contact our Employment Solicitors & HR Support Team in Edinburgh & London

For advice on compliance with the Working Time Regulations, contract MBM Commercial. We provide HR support & Employment Law services across a variety of sectors including Food & DrinkTech Start UpsIndependent SchoolsCharities, GP Medical Practices, Professional Services/Accountancy FirmsNurseriesEngineering & Renewables and Life Science Companies. Our Employment Law Team will work closely with you to understand your business culture and will advise and implement mechanisms to guarantee your adherence to the Working Time Regulations.

For more information on our Employment Law services and HR support, please contact us on 0808 223 0116 or fill out our online contact form.

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