Working time regulations

The Working Time Regulations ("WTR") came into force on 1 October 1998. These regulations apply to full and part-time workers, as well as to agency and casual staff. 

  • The WTR require that employees should not work for more than forty-eight hours in any one week, averaged over a seventeen week period and that employees should also be entitled to four weeks paid holiday a year (inclusive of public/bank holidays and pro-rate for part-time workers). This holiday entitlement will be increased by 0.8 week (i.e. 4 days for a worker who works a five day week) from October 2007. From October 2008 there will be furher increase of 0.8 week giving a five day per week worker a total of 28 days paid holiday per annum inclusive of bank holidays;
  • Employees aged over eighteen have a right under the regulations to a minimum of a twenty minute break during each working day (when the working day is longer than six hours). In addition, employees are entitled to a rest period of at least eleven consecutive hours, between each working period, and at least one twenty four hour rest period in every working week;
  • Night workers' daily hours should not exceed eight hours in any one working period, averaged over a seventeen week period;
  • Night workers must have regular health assessments to ensure that they are healthy enough for night work, these assessments must be provided by and paid for by the employer.


  • Employees wishing to work for more than forty-eight hours per week are allowed to do so. However, their employer must gain a written agreement from the employee (called an opt-out), confirming his or her agreement to work such additional hours;
  • Employers are not required to maintain any additional records relating to employees 'opting- out' of the WTR;
  • Employees are at any time allowed to cancel opt-out agreements by giving their employer at least seven days notice.

It is important to remember that the WTR define working time as when someone is 'working at his/her employer's disposal and carrying out his or her activities or duties'. This therefore means that 'working time' includes:  

  • Working lunches (for example business lunches);
  • Travelling time when an employee has to travel as part of their work (e.g. travelling to a client);
  • When an employee is carrying out work-related training, that is directly linked to his or her job or career;
  • Time spent abroad working, if the employer's business is based in the UK.

Working time does not include time spent:

  • Travelling to and from the employee's regular employment from home;
  • Rest breaks where no work is carried out;
  • Time spent travelling outside normal employment hours;
  • Training which is not job related, for example 'self-interest' evening classes.