Working Time Directive and Regulations

1. Introduction

1. Introduction

The Working Time Regulations 1998 cover the following areas:

  • daily rest breaks / weekly rest periods
  • maximum weekly hours
  • paid holidays
  • health assessments for night workers.
  • monotonous work

This policy provides practical guidance and information on the regulations and is intended to ensure that they are consistently applied. 

It is essential that University staff both understand and comply with all aspects of the regulations.

Human Resources will provide advice and assistance in the operation of the regulations.

Who is covered by the regulations?

The regulations apply to "workers" - not only anyone who works under a contract of employment (i.e. who is an "employee"), but also all those who undertake personally to perform work or services for another party. This excludes genuinely self-employed people.

Categories covered by the regulations are as follows:

  • all University staff (full-time and part-time)
  • employment agency staff
  • casual staff
  • seasonal staff
  • University students on placements
  • work experience placement pupils
  • training programme staff (such as "Modern Apprentices")

There are a number of categories of staff who are excluded from the regulations, including doctors in training.

Who has obligations to staff?

The obligation to ensure that staff receive the benefit and protection of the regulations falls to the employer. For the purposes of implementation in the University this responsibility is delegated to Heads of School/RI/Service.

2. Entitlements specified by the regulations

2. Entitlements specified by the regulations

2.1 Maximum working week

2.1 Maximum working week

What is working time?

Working Time is any time:

  • when a worker is at their employer's disposal and carrying out its activities or duties
  • when a worker is receiving relevant training (which does not include students) that the employer has agreed is working time under a relevant agreement

Time can still be regarded as working time even if the member of staff is not being paid for the time. In order to avoid disputes Heads of School/RI/Service should agree with staff what constitutes working time.

Examples of Working Time Conditions:

  • Time during which a member of staff is on call if the member of staff is not otherwise free to do as they please
  • Work related traveling time i) If traveling from home to a place of work other than normal, only the time in excess of the normal journey time is considered working time.ii) If traveling within working hours

What is the maximum number of hours a member of staff can be required to work?

A member of staff can not be required to work more than an average of 48 hours in any week when averaged over a seventeen week period, called a reference period. This 48-hour limit includes the total hours worked for the University plus those for any other employer. Both managers and staff should take care not to exceed this limit. In exceptional circumstances (meeting the needs and exigencies of the University), a member of staff can choose to enter an individual agreement, confirming that s/he is prepared to exceed the 48 hour limit (see Appendix 1).

NB If a member of staff has been absent from work due to sickness, maternity leave or holiday an equivalent period will be added to the reference period for the purpose of carrying out the reference period calculation.

How are staff with a second job affected?

If a member of staff has a second job outwith the University they must declare the second job to their manager and inform them of the number of hours they are required to work per week. The member of staff is responsible for ensuring that they remain in compliance with the regulations concerning the maximum working week and daily & weekly rest periods. If the overall working arrangements are at variance with the regulations, the working arrangements of the individual's secondary job must be changed in order to comply.

2.2 Overtime

2.2 Overtime

Do records of weekly hours worked need to be kept?

Heads of School/RI/Service must monitor the overtime worked by their staff and ensure that the total hours worked do not exceed an average of 48 hours per week over the 17-week reference period. If staff are often required to work overtime that raises their working week to around 48 hours, the member of staff should keep a record of the hours worked and the Head of School/RI/Service should verify that record.

What if the average weekly hours worked is likely to exceed 48 per week?

If overtime requirements would result in the average working week of a member of staff exceeding 48 hours, one of two options are available:

1. the member of staff can choose to sign an individual voluntary agreement (see Appendix 1) to exceed the 48 hour per week average (the template agreement at Appendix 1 can be pasted into an email); or
2. an amount of overtime work that does not cause the 48-hour limit to be exceeded should be assigned to that member of staff instead.

Where a member of staff chooses to exceed the 48 hour weekly average and has signed a written agreement to that effect (see Appendix 1) this agreement can hold for an indefinite period, but it must allow the worker to opt back in to the 48 hour maximum by giving seven calendar days notice to their line manager. A copy of the agreement should be kept by the Head of School/RI/Service, along with a record of the total number of hours worked by the member of staff each week (see Appendix 2), for at least two years. A copy of the agreement should also be sent to Human Resources.

The opt-out cannot apply to the statutory rest breaks outlined below.

2.3 Rest periods and breaks

2.3 Rest periods and breaks

What entitlements to rest periods do staff have?

Staff are entitled to daily and weekly rest periods in addition to their paid annual leave entitlement as follows:

Staff aged 18 or over are entitled to:

  • one twenty minute daily rest period if the working day is longer than 6 hours. This daily rest period is catered for by the normal lunch break.
  • eleven consecutive hours daily rest between each working day..
  • one uninterrupted weekly rest period of at least 24 hours in each 7 day period; or, where this is extended to a 14 day period, two uninterrupted weekly rest periods of at least 24 hours, or one uninterrupted rest period of at least 48 hours.

Staff aged 16 or 17 are entitled to:

  • one thirty minute rest period if the working day is longer than 4½ hours. This daily rest period is catered for by the normal lunch break.
  • twelve consecutive hours daily rest per 24 hour period.
  • one uninterrupted weekly rest period of at least 48 hours in each 7 day period.

Flexibility in these rest periods is permissible under the regulations if there are unforeseen circumstances or emergencies. This, however, is exceptional and should not be used on a routine basis. If staff do not receive the appropriate rest period they are entitled to compensatory rest equivalent to the period of rest they missed out on. This should be made available within two weeks for daily rest periods and two months for weekly rest periods. As the staff will have already been paid for the time worked, the compensatory rest will be unpaid.

2.4 Monotonous work

2.4 Monotonous work

Are workers protected from monotony?

The health & safety of some workers can be affected if the work they do is boring or monotonous or involves carrying out work at a pre-determined rate. This provision would apply in relation to staff who carry out a single task on a continuous basis, without the opportunity to leave their workstation or vary the manner in which the task is performed. Employers should ensure that staff whose work falls into this category are given adequate rest breaks to compensate. These breaks are in addition to the normal rest break.

2.5 Annual leave entitlement

2.5 Annual leave entitlement

What leave entitlement do staff have?

The University provides a general annual leave entitlement which exceeds the statutory minimum. Full details can be found in the Annual Leave Policy


2.6 Night workers

2.6 Night workers

What is a night worker?

A night worker is anyone who, as part of their normal work, works during night time for at least three hours a night or as may be specified in a collective or workforce agreement. Nighttime is either the period between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. or, if there is a relevant agreement, the period that is specified in that agreement. Where a period is specified it must include the period between midnight and 5 a.m.

What are the working time limits on night workers?

A night worker may not undertake more than an average of 8 hours work during any period of 24 hours. The average number of hours will be calculated over a 17-week period and must take into account the rest periods to which the member of staff is entitled.

Who is entitled to a health assessment?

Night workers are entitled to a free health assessment. This should be offered before the member of staff commences night work. If the employer has carried out a health assessment before the member of staff became a night worker and has no reason to believe the assessment has changed, the Head of School/RI/Service can rely on that assessment.

2.7 Staff protection

2.7 Staff protection

The regulations protect staff from being discriminated against because they assert their entitlement to limit their working hours or to take rest breaks. There is therefore protection against denial of promotion, facilities or training opportunities that would otherwise have been available. There is also protection against dismissal where staff exert their entitlements under the regulations.

2.8 Enforcement of the regulations

2.8 Enforcement of the regulations

If the regulations are not being adhered to staff have the right to raise a complaint under the University's grievance procedure If these procedures are exhausted without satisfactory resolution staff may pursue an individual complaint through an Employment Tribunal.


Appendix 1 - draft individual agreement to exceed 48 hour limit

Appendix 2 - weekly working hours record