Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Regulations came into force in October 1998.

The Regulations were amended, with effect from 1 August 2003, to extend working time measures in full to all non mobile workers in road, sea, inland waterways and lake transport, to all workers in the railway and offshore sectors, and to all workers in aviation who are not covered by the sectoral Aviation Directive. The Regulations applied to junior doctors from 1 August 2004.

Mobile workers in road transport have more limited protections. Those subject to European Drivers' hours rules 3820/85 are entitled to 4 weeks paid annual leave and health assessments if a night worker from 1 August 2003. Mobile workers not covered by European drivers' hours rules will be entitled to an average 48 hours per week, 4.8 weeks paid holiday, health assessments if a night worker and adequate rest.

The Regulations were previously amended, with effect from 6 April 2003, to provide enhanced rights for adolescent workers. Because of these amendments to the Regulations, sections of the guidance have been revised. These are: Section 2: Working time limits and Section 3: Working at night - see Your guide to the Working Time Regulations.

The basic rights and protections that the Regulations provide are:

  • a limit of an average of 48 hours a week which a worker can be required to work (though workers can choose to work more if they want to).
  • a limit of an average of 8 hours work in 24 which nightworkers can be required to work.
  • a right for night workers to receive free health assessments.
  • a right to 11 hours rest a day.
  • a right to a day off each week.
  • a right to an in-work rest break if the working day is longer than 6 hours.
  • a right to 4 weeks paid leave per year.

Current position on the opt-out in the UK

As the opt out is going through a negotiating process in Europe, the UK law remains unchanged on this point and workers are still able to opt-out of the weekly working time limits.  The UK will be given time to implement any changes to legislation and any future developments on this and other Working Time topics will be posted on this website in due course.

Member States discussed a revised proposal from the European Commission at the Employment Council on 2 June.  However there was no agreement on the proposals at this point.


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.

However, if you require further information about the application of the Regulations you should contact Acas.