Working over time

The Working Time Regulations 1998 govern the hours most workers can work and set limits on an average working week, as well as other matters such as regulating the statutory entitlement to paid leave for workers or setting out the limits on the normal hours of night work.

In general, the Regulations apply to both part-time and full-time workers, and provide rights to:

·         A limit of an average 48 hours a week on the hours a worker can be required to work, though individuals may choose to work longer by ‘opting out’

·         Paid annual leave of 5.6 weeks a year

·         11 consecutive hours’ rest in any 24-hour period

·         A 20-minute rest break if the working day is longer than six hours

·         One day off each week

·         A limit on the normal working hours of night workers to average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.


As mentioned above, workers have the right to ‘opt out’ of working 48 hours per week at any time by giving notice. However, complications can arise where work is overtime and employees are negatively affected as a result.

According to a study conducted by published in February 2017, British employees are working an average of 68 days more each year than they are contracted to, often for no additional pay. The survey reveals that 60% of employees believe that they do not have a good work-life balance and a third of the 2,000 participants in full-time salaried or hourly employment say they typically leave work on time.

Though legally there is no right to be paid extra for any overtime worked, it might beneficial for employers to set out the normal hours of work, the remuneration to be received for overtime, if any, and the provisions outlining overtime rates within the terms of the employment contract for its workers. This would ensure workers are aware of the hours they would typically work and in some circumstances ensure they are rewarded for the extra hours they put in.

Working time protections is a live issue the Government is being pressured to solve. Earlier this year, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said that employees’ working rights risk getting worse as a result of Brexit. The TUC further stated that employees’ rights have been in decline for the past five years as it was found that the number of employees working longer hours than contracted had grown by 15% in that period.

On another note, for those employers who pay overtime, it is important to note that there is a legal obligation to pay the National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage when doing so. This is particularly relevant for employees who are paid on an hourly basis rather than a monthly basis.

Leyton Legal