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Working Time Regulations PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 April 2012 11:04

Employers have to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the 48-hour maximum working week.  Workers who want or need to work longer can sign an “opt-out agreement”. If your employees regularly work overtime, you need to be aware of a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision on the 48-hour working week opt-out.   The EAT held that it was reasonable and necessary for an employer to require an employee to sign an opt-out agreement to be able to work overtime.  As there are criminal sanctions for employers who fail to ensure compliance with the 48-hour week, the decision will be reassuring for employers if they have employees who wanted to work overtime, but had not agreed to opt out.   Our checklist summarises your obligations under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833), so that you can check you’re staying on the right side of the law.

Employers’ obligations under the Regulations


The 48-hour working week


·          Your business must take all reasonable steps to ensure that workers’ average working time (including overtime) does not exceed 48 hours each week. If you fail to make sure these steps are complied with, criminal sanctions can be imposed on your business.


·          However, if your workers have signed an opt-out agreement, the limit on average working hours will not apply. You must keep records covering the last two years, showing which workers have opted out.


Special measures for night workers


·          A night worker is any person who works for at least three hours between 23:00 and 06:00 on the majority of their shifts.


·          Your business must take all reasonable steps to ensure night workers’ normal hours of work do not exceed eight hours each day, on average.


·          You should ensure that no night worker doing work involving special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, works for more than eight hours each day.


·          All night workers should be given the opportunity to take a free health assessment when they start night work and at regular intervals thereafter.


·          If a doctor advises that night work is causing a worker health problems, you should transfer the night worker to day work, where possible.


Give workers adequate rest breaks


You must provide your workers with adequate rest breaks where their health and safety could be put at risk, due to their pattern of work (for example, where the work is particularly monotonous).


Keeping accurate records


Your business must keep and maintain records showing whether the limits on average working time, night work and provision of health and safety assessments are being complied with for each worker.


Rest periods


You must allow all your workers the following rest periods unless they are exempt, in which case compensatory rest will usually have to be given:


·          11 hours’ uninterrupted res each day.


·          24 hours’ uninterrupted rest each week (or 48 hours uninterrupted rest each fortnight).


·          A rest break of 20 minutes when working more than six hours each day.




Paid holidays


Your business must allow your workers 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday each year (this is equivalent to 28 days for a full-time worker).


Penalties for breaching the Regulations


There are a wide range of penalties that can be imposed on your business for breaching the Regulations. These include:


·          A fine of up to the statutory maximum (on summary conviction) or a potentially unlimited fine (on indictment).


·          "Improvement" or "prohibition" notices issued by Health and Safety Executive or local authority inspectors. If your business fails to comply with the notice:


o    potentially unlimited fines and up to two years' imprisonment for directors on conviction on indictment can be imposed; or


o    a fine up to the statutory maximum and up to three months' in prison on summary conviction can be imposed.


·          Compensation for workers in an employment tribunal.


Practical steps for your business to take in relation to the Regulations


·          Agree with your workers what “working time” actually means. Working time is defined as:


o    any period during which your worker is working, carrying out his duties, and is at your disposal;


o    any period during which your worker is receiving "relevant training"; or


o    any additional period agreed in a relevant agreement to be "working time" (for example, in an employment contract).


Time that is not normally classed as “working time” includes:


o    attending work-related social events;


o    travelling to the workplace; and


o    attending evening classes that are not a requirement of the job.


·          Identify which workers, if any, are likely to exceed the 48-hour average and try to enter into opt-out agreements with them to exclude the limit on their average working time.


·          Ask any workers who have not opted out for details of any other work they do for another employers and the hours they work each week.


·          Keep a list of opted-out workers.


More information


If you have any questions about the content of this checklist, please contact Steve Anderson: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 17:27

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