Working Time Regulations – quick guide

Rest BreaksThe Working Time Regulations entitle al Workers and Employees to:

  • A minimum Daily Rest period of 11 hours uninterrupted rest between finishing your job and starting the next day (Workers aged between 15-18 are entitled to a minimum daily rest break of 12 hours).
  • A Weekly Rest period of 24 hours uninterrupted rest within each seven-day period (Young Workers aged 15-18 are entitled to 48 hours); or, at the Employers choice, a Fortnightly Rest Period of 48 consecutive hours within each 14 day period.
  • The weekly rest period should not include any part of the daily rest period.
  • A break of 20 minutes if your daily working day is more than six hours long (or 30 minutes if you’re aged 15-18 years and you work more than 4.5 hours at a stretch).
  • If you’re an Agency Temp, the Employer you’re working for (not the Agency who employs you) is responsible for you receiving these minimum rest breaks.
  • The first two types of rest periods are generally unpaid. The 20-minute break may be paid or unpaid, depending on what it says in your contract of employment. For more information on rest breaks please see the Direct Gov website.

Certain ‘special case’ workers are exempt from these rest break provisions and can be legitimately asked to work through their rest breaks. Contact BHR for more information about this.

The legislation states that you cannot work for more than 48 hours per week, which is normally measured over a 17 week ‘reference period’.

Information you need to know about the weekly working limit:

  • This 48 hour per week limit also applies if you’ve more than one job, i.e. the total amount of combined working hours you do shouldn’t exceed 48 per week. If it does, each Employer should ask you to sign an Opt-Out (see below).
  • If you’re an Agency Temp, the Employer you work for (not the Agency that employs you) is responsible for ensuring you do not work more than 48 hours per week. 
  • Young Workers (those under 18 but over school leaving age) cannot normally work more than eight hours per day (40 hours per week) and can’t Opt-Out of these limits or have their hours averaged out.
  • The ‘reference’ period takes into account any statutory holidays, sick leave, maternity/paternity/adoption/parental leave and if any Opt-Outs were in place. The reference period is extended by the number of days on any of the above.
  • There are different rules for workers in air, sea and road transport. Domestic servants employed in a private house are generally excluded from weekly hours limits. 


  • Employers may offer you the opportunity to voluntarily Opt-Out of this 48-hour limit – i.e. you agree that you can work for more than 48 hours per week. The Opt-Out is not a condition of your employment and it must remain optional and voluntary. 
  • Young workers cannot Opt-Out.
  • You shouldn’t be subjected to any detriment by refusing or proposing to refuse to sign an Opt-Out agreement.
  • Records showing that the weekly working limit has been complied with; 
  • Employers need to make occasional checks on workers who do standard hours and are unlikely to reach the 48-hour limit.
  • If workers are close to the working time limit of 48 hours per week, their hours should be monitored.
  • Employers need to keep records of the names of workers who’ve agreed to ‘Opt-Out’ and can work 48 hours or more a week.
  • Where there are Night Workers, Employers must keep a record of the name of each night worker, what date they had their health assessment and the result of that assessment. 
  • Records must be kept for two years
  • These rules are enforced by the Health & Safety Executive. Employers that breach them can be prosecuted or fined under criminal law.

Breaches of the 48-hour limit are dealt with by the Health and Safety Executive

It’s important to keep track of the hours worked and leave taken for your staff. BHR can help you implement a simple, and cost-effective HR Database that can help you keep on top of this admin! Contact us today for more information.

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