Working Time Requirements

The Working Time Regulations limit the number of hours an employee has to work every week. 

By law, an employee cannot work more than an average of 48 hours a week unless they agree to work more hours, or do a job not covered by the Working Time Regulations. Employees aged 16-18 must not be required to work more than 40 hours a week.

Average weekly working hours are calculated by taking the total hours an employee has worked over a 17-week period. This period can be extended to a maximum of 52 weeks by agreement.

Working hours includes any time you are doing work for your employer, such as:

  • Job-related training
  • Work-related travel
  • Working from home
  • Working lunches
  • Working abroad
  • Overtime
  • Any time treated as ‘working time’ under a contract

Working hours do not include:

  • Lunch breaks
  • Travelling to and from work
  • Unpaid overtime the employee has volunteered for ,such as working late
  • Holiday

You may choose to work more than an average of 48 hours a week by signing a written agreement, known as an ‘opt-out agreement’ which should be separate from your employment contract. You can choose to cancel the opt-out agreement by giving notice to your employer at any time.  You do not have to agree to opting out and your employer should not treat you less favourably if you choose not to opt out.


Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ (28 days) paid holiday every year, including bank holidays. Your Contract of Employment may allow you more than this.

There is no absolute right to take holiday whenever you choose. You must take holiday when it is convenient to your employer.

You cannot request a payment in lieu of holiday apart from upon termination of your employment in which case you are entitled to be paid for any accrued but untaken holiday up to the termination date. Your employer may require you to take any remaining holiday during your notice period if you work your notice period.

Rest Breaks

Workers are entitled to three types of break at work – rest breaks, daily rest and weekly rest.

This includes the right to a 20-minute rest break on all working days or shifts longer than 6 hours, daily rest of 11 hours between working days and an uninterrupted break of either 24 hours each week or 48 hours each fortnight.

How can we help you?

If you think you are working more hours than is legal and you have not opted out of the weekly limit, or you are not being given your full holiday or rest entitlement, please contact a member of our Employment Law team who will be able to advise you if your employer is breaching the Working Time Regulations and what action you can take.