Working Time Regulations Guide

Your Guide to the Working Time Regulations

This document provides guidance on the limits on working time and the entitlements provided for in the Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended). It gives general guidance only and should not be regarded as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.

Readers should be aware that there may be developments in new legislation or case law which affect the rights of workers

Who’s Who

worker is:

  • someone who has a contract of employment, or
  • someone who is paid a regular salary or wage and works for an organisation, business or individual. Their employer normally provides the worker with work, controls when and how the work is done, supplies them with tools and other equipment, and pays tax and National Insurance contributions. This includes part-time and temporary workers and the majority of agency workers and freelancers.

Someone doing in-house training or a trainee on work experience – for example, doing a National Traineeship – is also a worker. A young worker is someone who is above the minimum school leaving age but under 18.

Where the regulations do not apply

If you are self-employed, running your own business and are free to work for different clients and customers, the Working Time Regulations do not apply to you.

Certain workers are not subject to these regulations, because they will be governed by sector-specific provisions. These are:

  • Sea transport, as covered by the Seafarers’ Directive (1999/63/EC)

  • Mobile workers in inland waterways and lake transport

  • Workers on board sea going fishing vessels

  • Air transport, as covered by the Aviation Directive (2000/79/EC). This Directive affects all mobile workers in commercial air transport (both flight crew and cabin crew), but not workers employed in General Aviation

Other workers are only subject to certain provisions of these regulations. These are:

  • Mobile workers in road transport, as covered by the Road Transport Directive (2002/15/EC). The Road Transport Directive affects mobile workers who are participating in road transport activities covered by EU drivers’ hours rules. This includes drivers, members of the vehicle crew and any others who form part of the travelling staff

From the 1st August 2003, workers subject to the Road Transport Directive benefit from the entitlement to paid annual leave and the right to health assessments for night workers under the Working Time Regulations.

The armed forces, the police and emergency services are outside the scope of the regulations in certain circumstances.

However, young workers in the armed forces, the police and emergency services, the aviation sector and the road transport sector, are covered by the young workers provisions in the Working Time Regulations.

The Department for Transport will implement separate working time legislation in the transport sector. See section Contacts for other working time legislation for contact details.

Sectors previously excluded from the regulations

On 1st August 2003, the Working Time Regulations were extended to cover the following sectors:

  • Workers in air transport, other than those covered by the Aviation Directive.
  • All workers in rail transport.
  • Workers in road transport, other than those subject to the Road Transport Directive.
  • Non-mobile workers in sea fishing, sea transport, inland waterways and lake transport.
  • All workers in other work at sea, such as offshore work in the oil and gas industry.

Since the 1st August 2004, the regulations were extend in full to cover doctors in training with the exception of the weekly working time limits and special rules for the reference period, which will be phased in over a further five-year period (see section Special daily and weekly working time limits).

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