Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations came into force in October 1998.

Guidance on the working time regulations can be found on Directgov for workers or employees and for employers or businesses.

To reduce your admin burden as an employer you shouldn’t duplicate records for working time. Your payroll may already include all the information the law requires. You could also use the flow chart on instead of paying advisers to draft opt-out letters.

An update on the current position on the opt-out in the UK can be found on the BERR site. (add link to page)

Enforcement of the working time regulations

Enforcement is split between different authorities. The limits and health assessments (if a night worker), are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive, local authority environmental health departments, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA),the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).The entitlements to rest and leave are enforced through employment tribunals. The Employment Tribunals Service can also help you with information about making a claim or about Tribunal procedures.

Annual leave and sick leave

The House of Lords referred a case (Stringer and others v HMRC) to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification about workers on long term sick leave and their entitlement to annual leave under the Working Time Directive (EC Directive 2003/88).

The European Court of Justice joined this case with a German case (Schultz-Hoff) and delivered its judgment on 20 January 2009. The key points of the judgement are that:

  • under the Directive, workers are entitled to four weeks annual leave
  • a worker on sick leave for all or part of the annual leave year is entitled to any untaken annual leave when they return to work (which might be in the next leave year)
  • alternatively if a worker' employment is terminated before they have had the opportunity to take their annual leave entitlement due to sickness, the worker must receive payment in lieu at the normal rate of pay

The case will now be referred back to the House of Lords who will decide the case in light of the ECJ judgment. BERR is considering the implications of the judgment in relation to the current Working Time Regulations. In the meantime employers should have regard to the judgment.

Rolled-up holiday pay

Following an ECJ judgment on 16 March 2006 and more recent judgments in UK courts, rolled-up holiday pay (RHP) is considered unlawful and payment for statutory annual leave should be made at the time when leave is taken.

UK court judgements about rolled-up holiday pay

Robinson-Steele v PD Retail Services, Clarke v Frank Staddon Ltd, Caulfield & Others v Hanson Clay Products Ltd (formerly Marshalls Clay Products Ltd), 16 March 2006

Long Hours Working Partnership Project

In 2004 a partnership project between the former DTI (now BERR), CBI and TUC was set up in order to identify practical ways of implementing change management programmes in the workplace and share this learning between businesses

Business champions who have successfully implemented working time change management programmes shared their learning in master classes. These case studies were written up into a report.

ECJ ruling on DTI guidance on rest entitlement

The ECJ previously ruled that DTI guidance on rest entitlement was incompatible with the Working Time Directive specifically: employers must make sure that workers can take their rest “but are not required to make sure they do take their rest”.

No change to UK law is required and we have removed this reference from the guidance.

Working Time Regulations - Statutory Instruments