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Similarly to holiday pay, working time regulations apply to ‘workers’, not just employees.

The regulations define and set limits on ‘working time’, the period when a worker is carrying out his duties, which can include time spent training, business travel, and ‘on call’ time if the worker is required to be at work premises while on call, even if they are not actually required to work. Excluded from working time calculations though are travelling from home to work, rest breaks at work taken away from the normal work station and when no work is done (whether paid or not) and training which is not related to the worker’s job.

The general rule is that an adult worker cannot be required to work more than 48 hours on average in each working week, unless they have signed an opt out form confirming that they wish to waive certain of their rights under the working time regulations.

Although this sounds simple enough the reality with working time is anything but. There are special rules for young people, people who work at night, rules defining what ‘night’ actually is. Average hours must be monitored over a rolling 17 week period (unless varied by a collective agreement), and excluded from this period are holiday, sick absence, maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave etc. In this case substitute days must be taken from the preceding 17 week period.

Typical employment law pitfalls

Employers cannot force employees to opt out from working time, nor can they contractually require employees to opt out. Working time issues can be many and varied, but employers should take extra special care to ensure that the rules for night workers and young workers are especially adhered to. Working time issues in other circumstances tend to rear their heads on the back of another dispute between employer and employee, perhaps in the case of an unfair dismissal claim.

If the business is a long hours business employer’s should carefully monitor compliance with the 48 hour week and regularly audit to ensure no breach.

Help and support

For certain businesses specific working hours contractual clauses and employee handbook guidance notes are appropriate. We can help draft these in accordance with the needs of the employer and can also provide referrals to relevant Occupational Health providers (for night shift medical questionnaires etc) when required.

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