Understanding UK Illegal Working Hours

The UK Working Time Directive is a set of regulations which is designed to protect workers. Under the working time directive, it is illegal to work more than an average of 48 hours per week over a period of 17 weeks. If unsure, check your employment contract and your employment rights with a qualified solicitor.

The working time directive is optional, and individual workers are allowed to opt out of it as long as they are over the age of 18. Those who are under 18 are not allowed to work for more than 8 hours a day, or 40 hours per week.

Exclusions to the Illegal Working Hours

There are some professions where someone may be required to work more than 48 hours a week. For example, the armed forces and emergency services may be expected to work longer hours. Domestic servants working in a private household are allowed to work more than 48 hours a week, as are executives who set their own working hours, and those who work on vessels located on inland waterways (such as sea fishermen).

An employer is allowed to ask their employees to opt out of the 48-hour work week, however, they are not allowed to treat the employee differently or sack them if they are unwilling to do so. Employees can opt-out either indefinitely, or for a certain period, for example for the duration of a difficult project.

There are some professions that are not allowed to opt-out. Drivers and airline staff are required to have rest periods and breaks at regular intervals in order to ensure the safety of the people that they serve, and are forbidden from waiving their right to that rest.  You cannot be forced to cancel your opt-out agreement by your employer, and you must give your employer notice if you decide you are no longer willing to opt-out.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Specific legal advice should be sort tailored to the individual circumstances in all cases.

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    We can be contacted 24 hours a day.
    Our Reading Head Office address is:

    Davidson House
    Forbury Square
    RG1 3EU
    0118 914 5622
    07850 952245