Working Time Directive


According to the European Commission, the Working Time Directive is designed to protect workers’ health and safety by limiting their working hours to meet minimum standards that are applicable throughout the EU.

According to, your staff can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average – normally averaged over 17 weeks. This law is sometimes called the ‘working time regulations’.  However, your staff can choose to work more by opting out of the 48-hour week.


The Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) requires EU countries to guarantee the following rights for all workers:


  • a limit to weekly working hours, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24
  • a rest break during working hours if the worker is on duty for longer than 6 hours
  • a minimum weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours for each 7-day period, in addition to the 11 hours’ daily rest
  • paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks per year
  • extra protection for night work, e.g. average working hours must not exceed 8 hours per 24-hour period; night workers must not perform heavy or dangerous work for longer than 8 hours in any 24-hour period; night workers have the right to free health assessments and, under certain circumstances, to transfer to day work.
  • staff under the age of 18, they can’t work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week.


There are some exceptions – staff may have to work more than 48 hours a week on average if they work in a job:


  • where 24-hour staffing is required
  • in the armed forces, emergency services or police
  • in security and surveillance
  • as a domestic servant in a private household
  • as a seafarer, sea-fisherman or worker on vessels on inland waterways
  • where working time is not measured and you’re in control, eg you’re a managing executive with control over your decisions


For more information please contact Acas.

“Acas is the employment relations service for England, Scotland and Wales offering practical, independent and impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives. Acas encourages people to work together effectively, and aims to promote good practice in the workplace as well as helping to resolve disputes.”

Call the Helpline on 0300 123 1100 from Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm for free support and advice.


This information has been sourced via The European Commission, ACAS and GOV.UK.


Company Number 10292477
VAT Reg: 250931126

Manchester Staff Ltd
Ducie House, Ducie Street, Manchester, M1 2JW
Phone: 0161 532 8252