Skip to main content

Working Time Regulations 1998 (Amended 2007)



The Working Time Regulations 1998 came into force on 1st October 1998, and subsequently amended by the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007, which came into force on 1st October 2007.

When adopted in November 1993, the Working Time Directive (93/104/EC) excluded the air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport, sea fishing, offshore work and the activities of doctors in training as it was decided that these sectors required individual specific legislation to accommodate working time measures. A further Directive covering these sectors, known as the Horizontal Amending Directive (HAD) (2000/34/EC), was adopted on 1 August 2000.

Three further sector specific Directives have also been adopted:

The Road Transport Directive (RTD) which was formally adopted on 23 March 2002 makes provision in respect of breaks, rest periods and working time for those subject to Council Regulation No. 3820/85 on the harmonisation of certain social legislation relating to road transport, otherwise known as "the European drivers' hours regulations". The RTD was implemented in April 2005.

The Aviation Directive, concluded by the Social Partners in the civil aviation sector, limits annual working time of mobile personnel (as defined inn the Directive) to 2000 hours, covers some elements of standby time and restricts flying time to 900 hours. The Directive also requires "appropriate" health and safety protection for all mobile personnel and contains provisions for a monthly and yearly number of rest days. Member States have until 1 December 2003 to implement the Directive. The Department for Transport will be consulting on its proposals to do this shortly.

The Seafarers' Directive on the organisation of working time, concluded by the social partners, is based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 180. The Directive provides for a maximum working week of 72 hours and 14 hours' rest in any 24 OR a minimum weekly rest requirement of 77 hours and 10 hours in any 24-hour period. It also provides for 4 weeks' paid annual leave and health assessments. The Department for Transport implemented this Directive through the Merchant Shipping ( Hours of Work) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2125) which came into effect on 7 September 2002.

A full copy of the Regulations and the Amendment Regulations can be printed and/or downloaded from:

The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide protection for employees with regard to the working hours that their employer may legally instruct them to work, together with the minimum rest periods to be allowed. The regulations specify requirements for:

  • Maximum Weekly Working Time
  • Night Work
  • Daily and Weekly Rest
  • Annual Leave

Maximum Weekly Working Time

The maximum number of hours that an employee may be instructed to work, averaged over a reference period, is specified, as follows:

  • Maximum 48 hours per week (7 days)
  • Reference period 17 weeks or less for new workers
  • May be averaged over a 26 week period for certain workers
  • May be modified by agreement

Night Work

Due to the inherent risks involved in night work, including fatigue and stress, the regulations make specific limits on the maximum hours to be worked:

  • Maximum of 8 hours in any 24 averaged over a 17 week period
  • Maximum 8 hours in any 24 where worker carries out work which involves heavy physical or mental strain or involves special hazards

Night Workers Health Assessments

Any employees performing night work are entitled to health assessments, as follows:

  • Adult workers are entitled to a free health assessment before starting night work and at regular intervals
  • Young workers (15-18) may not work between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Without the above entitlement

Definition of Night Work

Night work is a period of work:

  • the duration of which is not less than 7 hours;
  • which includes the period between midnight and 5 a.m.
  • and, unless agreed otherwise, is between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Daily Rest

Minimum daily rest periods are specified, as follows:

  • Adult Workers - 11 hours in any 24 hour period
  • Young Workers - 12 hours in any 24 hour period
  • Young workers rest may be interrupted by short duration work or periods of work being split up during the day

Weekly Rest

All adult workers are entitled to weekly rest period of at least 24 hours continuous rest in any seven days.

Alternatively, 1 uninterrupted rest period of 48 hours in any 14 day period.

  • Does not include daily rest period.
  • May be interrupted by periods of work that are split up over the day or are of short duration.
  • May be reduced to 36 consecutive hours for technical or organisational reasons. Young Workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of 48 hours in any seven days.

Rest Breaks

The regulations specify the minimum time within a rest period and the maximum working time between rest periods.

  • Particular duties where worker is at risk due to monotonous work or involving forced work rate
  • Adult worker - 20 minutes uninterrupted where working time is more than 6 hours

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 Civil Aviation (Working Time) Regulations 2004. The Regulations apply to junior doctors from 1 August 2004.

Content of the Regulations

  1. Citation and commencement
  2. Interpretation
  3. Amendment of the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998

Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) Guidance

Guidance is supplied by BIS for these Regulations.