Your HR Questions Answered

Working Time and Rest Breaks – Your Questions Answered

Posted on 26th June 2019
Q:  How many hours can employees work?

A:  Workers aged over 18 can work up to 48 hours per week under Working Time Regulations.  This is averaged over a 17 week peiod, so an occaissional period of longer hours won't be of concern provided it is balanced out with shorter periods over that timeframe.  Workers can opt out of the 48 hour limit - see below.

Q:  What about night shift workers?

A:  Night workers may work no more than 8 hours per 24 hour period - averaged over an 17 week period.   In the case of night workers, the 17 week period can be extended to a longer period if agreed by both parties.  Workers cannot opt out of this restriction.

Q:  Are there different rules for young workers?

A:  Workers aged under 18 are not allowed to work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.  Also, they aren't allowed to opt out of the limits set by the Working Time Regulations.  in general, young workers are not allowed to work between 10pm and 6am - although there are exceptions for certain jobs.

Q:  What if my employees want to work longer hours?

A:  Some employees want the freedom to work longer hours - to earn more overtime for example.  In the UK, workers over 18 can opt out of the 48 hour restriction.  To do this they must formally declare in writing that they wish to opt out.  This opt out agreement can subsequently be cancelled by the employee at any time by giving at least 7 days written notice, or the notice period that is set out in their opt out agreement which may be up to three months.

Q:  What breaks are my employees entitled to take during the working day?

A:  By law, employees over 18 working for more than six hours per day are entitles to one 20 minute rest break.  Those under 18 are entitled to a 30 minute break if they work more than 4.5 hours.  Somtimes, additional breaks may be agreed with the workforce, unions or in their contract of employment - in which case these will apply.

Q:  Are employees entitled to smoking breaks?

A:  No.  Smokers are not entitled to any breaks in addition to the 20 (or 30) minute breaks set out above.  However, an employer can choose to grant additional breaks, also as above.

Q:  How much time off are workers entitled to between periods of work?

A:  Workers have the right to 11 consecutive hours' rest in a 24 hour period.  They are also entitled to one day off a week, or two days in a fortnight.  Younger people aged 18 and under are entitled to two days off per week.

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