The regulations that govern working time are designed to protect you in your employment. These are the front-page headlines and your normal working hours will be set out in your employment contract or written statement of employment particulars.

If you have any questions or you need clarification on any of the points below, contact your Asset Resourcing consultant for help on how they apply to you in your role.

Weekly Working Hours

Employees over the age of 18 cannot be forced to work more than 48 hours per week on average, the average being over 17 weeks. You can work over 48 hours in one week as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than 48 hours per week.

Your working week is NOT covered by these regulations if you have a job –

  • where you can freely choose how long you work (e.g. a board director, managing executive)
  • in the armed forces, emergency services or in some circumstances, the police
  • as a domestic servant in a private residence
  • as a sea transport worker, a mobile worker in inland waterways or a lake transport worker on board sea-going fishing vessels

Opting Out Of The 48 Hour Week

If you wish to opt out of the 48-hour week and you’re over 18 you can, although it must be voluntary and in writing. It cannot be an agreement with the whole workforce.

You shouldn’t be sacked or unfairly treated (e.g. refused a promotion or overtime) for refusing to sign an opt-out. Nor can your employer force you to cancel your opt-out agreement.

You can cancel your opt-out agreement anytime you want – even if it’s written into your employment contract but you must give your employer at least seven days notice. This could be longer (up to three months) if you’ve previously agreed it in writing with your employer.

What Counts As Work?

Your working week (as well as carrying out your usual duties) includes –

  • job-related training
  • job-related travelling time e.g. if you are a sales representative
  • working lunches, e.g. business lunches with clients and suppliers
  • time spent working abroad, if you work for a UK-based company
  • paid and some unpaid overtime
  • time spent ‘on-call’ at the workplace

What Doesn’t Count As Work

Your working week does not include –

  • breaks when no work is done, e.g. lunch breaks
  • normal travel to and from work
  • time when you are ‘on call’ away from the workplace
  • evening and day-release classes not relating to work
  • travelling outside of normal working hours
  • paid or unpaid holiday
  • unpaid overtime you have volunteered for e.g. staying late to finish something off

For more information and advice on working time regulations, please email or call 01582 46 99 22

Further reading

Working time limits -

Working hours & time off -

CAB – Working hours -

ACAS – Contracts & hours -


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