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Working Time Regulations: what every employer should know

Working Time Regulations: What Every Employer Should Know

Every employer needs to abide by Working Time Regulations. It’s a key piece of employment legislation which covers everything from the number of hours an employee is allowed to work each week, to how much holiday they are entitled to each year.

The idea behind the regulation is simple: to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees across the UK.

It’s the right thing to do, but also the legally required thing to do: failure to comply could result in a costly employment tribunal and damage to your reputation.

In this blog post we provide a summary of what’s included in the regulation, why it matters to your business and the five common mistakes to avoid.

Want to look after you staff with the very best in employee benefits and health support? Contact our friendly expert team at [email protected] or call on 01273 222805.

What’s included in the Working Time Regulations?

Working Time Regulations 1998 was introduced to protect the health, safety, and general wellbeing of employees and businesses, placing a limit on the number of hours in a working week. Employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average, but they can choose to work extra hours by opting-out of the 48 hour work week. The UK working regulations applies to all part-time, full-time, and most agency and freelancer workers.

Employees are:

  • Required to work an average of/no more than 48 hours a week, unless opting-out
  • Entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid time off per year
  • Entitled to a 20-minute rest break if working longer than 6 hours
  • Meant to have 11 hours of rest between working days e.g., finish at 8pm, then will start work at 7am the next day
  • Given a minimum of one day off per week
  • Restricted to 9 hours per day and 40 hours per week if aged 16-18

What are the exceptions to the regulations?

  • Armed forces and police, including emergency services staff when responding to emergency situations
  • Senior managers or those employed by family members where working time is not measured or pre-determined
  • Young workers under the age of 18 – they are entitled to more generous rest breaks and shorter working days/weeks (see above)
  • 24-hour staff e.g., nursing, care home staff, support workers
  • Security and surveillance staff
  • Domestic servant in a private household
  • Seafarers and fishermen working on vessels

What should I know about holiday regulations?

Almost all workers in the UK are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday each year under the Working Time Regulations.

There’s a simple way to calculate how many days of holiday each staff is entitled to. Simply multiply the number of days a week they have worked by 5.6.

For example:

If a staff member is working a five day week, it works out like this: 5 (days) x 5.6 = 28 days holiday.

If a staff member is working a three-day week, it works out like this: 3 x 5.6 = 16.8 days holiday

You can find free digital holiday calculators online, including this holiday calculator from which can help calculate more complicated employment arrangements too.

Why Working Time Regulations matter

Working Time Regulations are there for a reason: to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of all your employees. That’s not just in their interests, but yours too.

Failure to adhere to Working Time Regulations can see you served with an improvement notice, which is a first and final warning. After that, you can be given unlimited fines and even imprisonment.

Even without the legal considerations, it’s incredibly important for businesses to ensure they have the processes in place to adhere to the rules. Fail to do this, and you’ll have a group of burnt out and disgruntled employees ready to jump ship!

For the good of your employees and for the good of your reputation, Working Time Regulations need to be taken seriously – it’s the very minimum requirement for demonstrating your duty of care to employees.

FIVE common mistakes to watch out for

There are a few common errors that businesses are known to make.

Opting-out of the 48-hour working week limit does not mean opting-out of the whole regulation!

Staff are relinquishing their right to work no more than 48-hours in a week. But that is all this means! They are still entitled to rest breaks and holidays, just the same as other staff.

Calculating the wrong holiday for your part-time or zero-hour contract employees.

Irregular hours can throw employers off when calculating their staff’s holiday, resulting in employees not receiving the correct holiday allotted to them. But there is a simple solution – use a holiday calculator. You’ll then can feel confident that you’ve allocated the right amount of holiday for each staff member.

Forgetting to pay any outstanding holiday pay to staff who are leaving.

Even if you have dismissed staff (or they have left), they are entitled to the holiday accrued up until their last day of work. Again, using a holiday calculator can make this incredibly simple – remember to adjust it to account for the leaving date.

Failing to provide holiday for any overtime hours.

Employees also build up holiday pay for any overtime work they have done. Keep track of who’s working what hours in one central system accessible to everyone. There are plenty of HR platforms which helps with this, tailorable to businesses of different sizes.

Getting overwhelmed with claims for unpaid holiday at the end of the year.

All staff need to receive their set holiday – either taking the days off or receiving holiday pay. The latter is preferable for all concerned!

It’s often the case that some employees won’t manage their time properly, failing to take holidays. This means you’ll end up with a big pay-out at the end of the working year, and for businesses with a smaller budget, it can come as a nasty surprise.

We suggest:

  • Regular written reminders if holidays are not being used
  • Track when holidays are approved or denied
  • Serve notice to staff to push them to take their holiday


Going beyond minimum requirements

Understanding and following the working time and holiday regulations is vital to keeping your staff happy, healthy and safe, while safeguarding the reputation of your business. But remember: this is the minimum requirement.

So, what else can you do?

SME’s have a huge array of workplace perks, insurance products, and employee benefits to consider. At Hooray Health and Protection, we specialise in helping start-ups and SMEs find the perfect combination of employee benefits and health protection plans to help their business better help their people.

Our friendly team of experts take the time to listen to your specific needs and tailor a plan to fit with your staff. We bring the most competitive quotes from the UK market, ensuring the best advice and results.

Contact us at [email protected] or call 01273 222805 for FREE no-obligation advice and support.  

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