Working Hours

Published 31 August 10

working hours

The hours an employee is expected to work should be stipulated in a Contract of Employment. Most workers have the maximum hours they should work set down in law under the Working Time Regulations. These govern:

  • How long they should work during a shift without a break.
  • How long they should work in any one week.
  • What rest periods should be taken between days (or nights) of work.

There are special rules that apply to young workers under the age of 18.

The European Working Time Directive effectively protects a worker's rights not to be forced to work more than 48 hours per week. This is normally calculated by averaging-out the weekly hours worked over a 17-week period.

In order to opt-out of these conditions, an employee must agree voluntarily and in writing, and they must not be treated unfairly or dismissed for not doing so. They also have the right to cancel the opt-out agreement by giving an appropriate amount of notice, normally seven days unless previously agreed.

A form template enabling workers to opt-out of the Working Time Directive limits can be found here

For further information on the Working Time Directive rules visit the Business Link website.

Related Links & Publications