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The Working Time Regulations (WTR) 1998 implemented the EU Working Time Directive. The Regulations limit the time a person is allowed to work and provides for rest breaks and holidays. 

Although there continue to be separate laws relating to the working hours of children, the WTR also implemented specific provisions of the Young Workers Directive regarding the working hours of young people under 18 years but over compulsory school age. 

The Work Time Regulations 1998 and the various exemptions they cover are often enough to make anyone's head spin. 

In this article, we address some of the most frequently asked questions about The Work Time Rgulations 1998 and general UK employment regulations.

Who is covered by the Working Time Regulations 1998?

The WTR 1998 applies to people who have:

  • A Contract of Employment
  • Any other contract whereby Party A to the contract agrees to perform any work or services for the other party (Party B) to the agreement, where party B is not, because of the contract, a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by party A

However, multiple professions are covered by the WTR 1998 but with some exceptions, such us, emergency workers and the armed forces in emergency situations. 

Other jobs have some flexibility around the WTR 1998, for example, those with seasonal rushes such as agriculture and tourism and professions where work cannot be interrupted for technical reasons, such as research and development and some IT projects. 

You can find a detailed explanation of the exceptions on the ACAS website.

What does the Working Time Regulations 1998 cover?

Your primary obligations as an employer under the WTR 1998 are:

  • Take all reasonable steps to ensure that each worker's average working time (including overtime) does not exceed 48 hours per week
  • Provide the following reset periods (unless the worker is exempt):
    • 11 hours of uninterrupted rest per day
    • 24 hours of uninterrupted rest per week (or 48 hours of uninterrupted rest per fortnight)
    • A rest break of 20 minutes when working more than six hours per day
  • Allow workers 5.6 weeks' paid holiday each year (equivalent to 28 days for a full-time worker)
  • If work is monotonous and/or could put a worker’s health and safety at risk, ensure adequate rest breaks are provided
  • Keep adequate records that demonstrate compliance with the WTR 1998

There are also several provisions for night workers, including ensuring workers don’t work more than eight hours per day on average.

Can you opt out of the Working Time Regulations 1998?

Employees can opt out of the WTR 1998; however, they must still receive adequate breaks. 

As an employer, you must obtain an employee’s consent concerning opting out, and they cannot be dismissed or receive detrimental treatment if they refuse to opt out.

What is the maximum permitted average weekly working time in hours?

According to the Working Time Regulations, most workers should only work an average of 48 hours a week. 

The Regulations also give you rights to paid holiday, rest breaks and limits on night work. The average working hours are calculated over 17 weeks.

Get legal assistance from LawBite

If you have any questions about complying with the Working Time Regulations 1998, our employment lawyers can provide you with the  guidance you need to ensure that you’re in full compliance with the Regulations, protecting you from potential legal disputes and expensive litigation.

To find out how our expert lawyers can support your business with all employment legal matter, book a free 15 minute consultation or call us on 020 3808 8314.

Additional resources

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

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