Working Time Regulations

A motivated and alert work force works efficiently and effectively. When people work too many hours accidents happen, mistakes are made and nobody profits. The Working Time Regulations represent minimum standards for workers while allowing flexibility in how those standards are applied.


Working time

When someone is working at his employer's disposal and carrying out his activity or duties.

Self employed

Running your own business and free to work for different clients and customers.

A worker

Someone who has a contract of employment or someone who is paid a regular salary or wage and works for an organisation, business or individual.

Their employer normally provides the work, controls how and when the work is done, supplies the tools/equipment and pays tax and National Insurance contributions. This includes the majority of agency workers and freelancers. A trainee on work experience is a worker too.

A young worker

Someone above the minimum school leaving age but under 18.

A night worker

Someone whose daily working time includes at least 3 hours of night-time most days worked or often enough for it to be said that such hours are worked as a matter of course.

Night time

The period between 11pm and 6am. Through agreement workers and employers can choose a different period but it must be at least 7 hours long and include the period from midnight to 5am.

The basic rights and protections that the Working Time Regulations provide are:

  • A limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work (workers can choose to work more if they want to)
  • A limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 hours which night workers can be 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 working day is longer than 6 hours
  • A right to 4 weeks paid leave per year

The Working Time Regulations provide different enhanced rights for adolescent workers:

  • A right to free health and capacities assessments for night work
  • A right to 12 hours rest a day
  • A right to 2 days off each week
  • A right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than 4½ hours

Enforcement of the Working Time Regulations is split between different authorities:

  • The Local Authority Environmental Health service in shops, offices, hotels and catering, sports, leisure and consumer services
  • The Health and Safety Executive enforces working time limits in factories, building sites, mines, farms, fairgrounds quarries, chemical plants, nuclear installations, schools and hospitals
  • Employment tribunals enforce the entitlements to leave to rest and leave

The Working Time Regulations apply to all workers except:

  • the self-employed
  • those working in transport sectors
  • sea fishing or other works at sea
  • doctors in training

In certain circumstances the workers rights may be modified by agreement to allow working time to be arranged in a manner best suited to both the worker and the employer. The necessary opt-out agreement must be agreed and signed by the worker and a record kept by the employer.


  1. Terms and Conditions of Employment - The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations (LEGUK);
  2. Employment Legislation - Your Guide to the Working Time Regulations (DTI – Dpt. of Trade and Industry);
  3. Working Time Regulations - Nobody Profits from Working Too Many Hours (DTI).