The Working Time Regulations are identical throughout the United Kingdom. They provide rights to workers ensuring that they do not have to work excessive hours.
The regulations were amended, with effect from 1 August 2003, to extend working time measures in full to all non mobile workers in road, sea, inland waterways and lake transport, to all workers in the railway and offshore sectors, and to all workers in aviation who are not covered by the sectoral Aviation Directive. The regulations applied to junior doctors from 1 August 2004.
Mobile workers in road transport have more limited protections.
The aim of the regulations is to impose minimum requirements on employers, while at the same time allowing flexibility for workers and employers to make arrangements which suit them.
The regulations augment existing health and safety legislation and are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and local authority Environmental Health Officers. Failure to comply can give rise to enforcement action and potential prosecution. In addition workers whose entitlements are denied, or who suffer detriment as a result of asserting their rights, may make a complaint to an employment tribunal.
The basic rights and protections that the regulations provide are:
1. A limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work.
2. A limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which "night workers" (as defined) can be required to work. More stringent rules apply to night workers who undertake work which involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain.
3. A right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
4. A right to 11 hours rest a day.
5. A right to a day off each week.
6. A right to an in-work rest break of at least 20 minutes if the working day is longer than 6 hours.
7. An obligation on employers to keep records showing that the limits on working hours are being complied with, and to ensure that such records are retained for two years from the date on which they are made.
8. A right to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year (as at 1 April 2009)
The regulations also provide enhanced rights for young workers aged between 16 and 18 as follows:
1. A right not to work at night between the hours of 10pm to 6am or 11pm to 7am.
2. A right not to work more than 40 hours a week and over 8 hours a day.
3. A right to 2 days off each week.
4. A right to an in-work rest break of at least 30 minutes after 4.5 hours of continuous service.
As mentioned above, the regulations do allow a degree of flexibility, and certain rights may be modified or excluded by written agreement. This facility is particularly useful in the context of the 48 hour week, where both you and the worker are willing to increase or exclude the limit on working hours.
Please note however, that strict procedures govern the right to modify or exclude the regulations, and you are therefore strongly advised to seek legal advice in relation to this topic - check the website to see what might be available to you.
You should also seek advice from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) or the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) in Northern Ireland. The relevant section of their website can be found below:
For more information, seeor, in Northern Ireland, the