Working time directive (UK)

work regulations

Are you an employer looking to become compliant with the working time directive? With constantly changing legislation, it's easy to be overwhelmed and unsure of what is required for compliance. Don't worry—we've got you covered.

This article will outline the working time directive and how employers can ensure they follow it in their organization. We'll also take a look at how employees benefit from the regulations so that everyone has a clear understanding of its purpose.

What is working time directive?

The working time directive is an EU-wide law that sets out workers' rights to daily rest, weekly rest periods, and how long a working week can be.

It also covers holiday entitlement and night work limitations. The directive has been around since 1993 and applies to most industries in the UK and across Europe.

Important postulates of working time directive

The working time directive sets out several important working time regulations that employers must comply with.

  • Daily Rest: All workers are entitled to a minimum of 11 hours per day.
  • Weekly Rest: All workers are entitled to a minimum of 24 hours uninterrupted rest period per week or 48 hours over two weeks.
  • Working Week Limit: average weekly working hours should not exceed 48 hours, considering any overtime hours worked.
  • Holiday Entitlement: All workers are entitled to a minimum of 4 weeks paid holiday per year.
  • Night Work: All night workers are entitled to a minimum of 11 hours rest period between two night work periods.

Aims of working time directive

The working time directive has two primary aims:

  • Ensure Work-Life Balance - Ensure workers have a healthy work-life balance by providing adequate rest periods and holiday entitlement.
  • Employee's Safety - Ensure that employees are protected from fatigue and overwork, which can lead to unsafe working conditions.

Who does the working time directive apply to?

The working time directive applies to all employers and workers in the EU. It covers full-time employees, part-time employees, and workers who are not employees, such as contractors.

It also applies to agency workers and those employed under the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) agreement.

Benefits of the working time directive for employees?

  • Ensures Reasonable Working Hours: The working time directive ensures that all workers have the right to reasonable daily and weekly rest and that their working hours are limited to 48 hours a week.
  • Ensure Paid Holidays: It guarantees workers paid holidays yearly and establishes restrictions on night work.
  • Ensure Manageable Work Loads: The directive helps prevent employers from overworking their staff and allows them to better manage their employees' workload.
  • Maintain Balance in Personal and Profession life: The working time directive helps maintain a healthy balance by protecting workers from long working hours. This is especially important for those who are in high-pressure jobs or those with heavy workloads.
  • Maintain Employee's Health: It also ensures that workers have the necessary time off to rest and recuperate from their work, which helps to maintain their health and well-being.

How can work time directive benefit employers?

The working time directive can benefit employers in the following ways:

  • Reduce Risk of Mistakes: Employers can reduce the risk of mistakes due to fatigue and exhaustion by limiting workers' work hours.
  • Reduce Risk of Illness: Employers can reduce the risk of employee injury and illness by ensuring that workers are provided with sufficient rest.
  • Improve Worker Performance: By providing adequate rest and paid holidays, employers can ensure that their employees can stay productive and perform at their best.
  • Boost Employee Morale: Employers can boost employee morale and create a more positive work environment by providing a healthy work-life balance.
  • Better Manage Workload: By limiting the number of hours employees are allowed to work, employers can better manage workloads and ensure that employees work at a safe and manageable rate.

Which organizations needs to follow working time directive?

All organizations within the EU are required to follow the working time directive. This includes private companies, public bodies, and non-profit organizations.

It also applies to all employees, including part-time and agency workers. Employers must comply with the directive's provisions or face legal penalties.

Exceptions in Working Time Directives:

There are a few exceptions to the working time directive. These include:

  • Maritime Sector: Employees who work in the maritime sector, such as fishermen and seafarers.
  • Aviation Sector: Employees who work in the aviation sector, such as pilots and cabin crew.
  • Healthcare Professions: Employees in certain healthcare professions, such as doctors and nurses.
  • Task-Based Environment: Employees who work in a task-based environment, such as call center agents.
  • Shift Workers: Employees who work in shifts, such as night worker.
  • Agriculture: Employees who work in the agricultural sector, such as farm workers.
  • Voluntary or On-Call Workers: Employees who work voluntarily or on-call, such as paramedics.

In these cases, the directive still applies but with some modifications. For example, shift workers may work more than 48 hours a week.

Are breaks included in working time directive?

Yes, the working time directive does include breaks. It states that workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 11 hours between shifts and a daily rest period of at least 24 hours every 7 days.

In addition, workers must have a break of at least 15 minutes after every 4.5 hours of work.

Benefits Of Such Breaks

  • Helps To Stay Alert: These breaks are important for workers to stay healthy and alert, so employers must ensure that they adhere to the breaks set out in the Working Time Directive.
  • Increased Performance: They can help improve worker morale and performance and reduce the risk of accidents and injury.
  • Better Concentration: Regular breaks can help workers maintain focus and concentrate better on their tasks.
  • Reduced Stress Levels: Breaks can help reduce stress levels, leading to increased productivity and satisfaction levels.

What happens if employers don't follow working time directive?

Employers may be liable for legal action if they do not comply with the working time directive. This could include fines or other sanctions imposed by the court.

In addition, employees may be entitled to claim for breach of contract or unfair dismissal. Therefore, employers must ensure they are compliant with the directive.


By understanding working time directive, organizations are provided the information needed to determine what steps must be taken to comply with the regulations on normal working hours.

Employers who do not abide by these standards could bear financial costs, but more importantly, they could also stand against potential legal action if proper safety measures are eventually disregarded.

Ultimately, the working time directive serves as a vital tool for employers to protect their employees' rights while providing them with optimal working conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Yes, the working time directive still applies in the UK.


  • The working time directive states that workers are entitled to uninterrupted rest breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts and a daily rest period of at least 24 hours every 7 days.

Employee Regulations
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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