Working Time Regulations

Guidance on Working Time Regulations and rest break periods


The Working Time Regulations 1998 came into force on 1 October 1998 and been amended in part by the Working Time Regulations 1999 and the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003. It is primarily a health and safety legislation and is intended to protect workers from the risks that arise out of working excessively long hours or for long periods without breaks.

The Regulations provide that all workers should be entitled to:

  • A maximum average working week of not more than 48 hours (inclusive of overtime) – This is taken over an averaging period of 17 weeks or longer in some cases.
    • You can choose to work more than 48 hours a week on average if you’re over 18. This is called ‘opting out’.
    • Your employer can ask you to opt out, but you can’t be sacked or treated unfairly for refusing to do so.
    • You can opt out for a certain period or indefinitely. It must be voluntary and in writing.
  • A maximum of 40 working hours per week in the case of young workers and a maximum working day of 8 hours.
  • Under 18’s are classed as Young Workers.
  • A 20 minute rest break where the working day is longer than 6 hours (30 minutes rest in the case of young workers where the working day is longer than 4.5 hours).
  • Night Workers a minimum of 24 hours rest in every 7 days worked (or 48 hours every 14 days). This rest period does not have to include a Sunday.
  • A minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period (12 hours rest in the case of young workers).
  • A restriction of 8 hours night work in every 24 hour period, the restriction of 8 hours to be averaged except where the work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain in which case it can never exceed 8 hours.