Working Hours and Regulations

My work has taken the chairs away from the computer area so we have to stand while working on the touch screens all day.

They are saying the chairs are luxuries, is there anything I can do? Miss Kat Hastings

Your normal working hours should be set out in your employment contract. Unless you choose to (or you work in a sector which has its own special rules), the Working Time Regulations state that you should not be required to work more than 48 hours per week. Even if you do not have a written contract, you must be given written terms and conditions of your working patterns, including the number of hours, within 2 months of starting work.

The 48 Hour Week

In addition to stating that an employee should not have to work more than a 48 hour week, the Working Time Regulations also give you rights to paid holiday, rest breaks and limits on Night Work. Your average working hours are calculated over a 17 week period so you can work more than 48 hours in a particular week as long as the average is 48 hours or less over the 17 week period. There are special rules for some workers such as young workers, trainee doctors and mobile workers in the transport sector.

Young Workers

If you are under 18 and over school leaving age (you are under school leaving age until the end of the summer term of the school year in which you turned 16), you are classed as a young worker. Young workers cannot usually be made to work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week and these hours cannot be averaged out over a longer period. There are some exceptions to these rules, however, and more details can be found on the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) website.

What Counts as Work?

In addition to carrying out your normal duties, your working week includes:

  • Job-related training
  • Job-related travelling time (e.g. if you are a sales rep)
  • Working lunches
  • Time spent working abroad (if you work for a UK company)
  • Paid and some unpaid overtime
  • Time spent ‘on call’ at the workplace

Your Basic Rights

In addition to the 48 hour working week, the basic rights and protections that the regulations provide are:

  • For night workers, a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which they are required to work
  • A right for night workers to receive free health assessments
  • A right to 11 hours rest a day
  • A right to a day off each week
  • A right to an in work rest break if the shift is 6 hours or more
  • A right to 4 weeks paid leave per year

Opting Out of The 48 Hour Week

If you are 18 or over and wish to work more than 48 hours per week, you can choose to opt out of the 48 hour limit. This must be voluntary and put in writing. It can’t be an agreement with the whole workforce and you shouldn’t be sacked or treated unfairly for refusing to sign an opt out. If you do decide to sign an opt out, you have the right to cancel this agreement at any time by giving between one week and 3 months notice and you can cancel an opt out even if it’s part of any contract you’ve signed.

There are some exceptions to several of the Working Time Regulations in specific instances and you can find out more by visiting the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) website. Other useful organisations providing more information about the Working Time Regulations are ACAS and the Health and Safety Executive.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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