UK Working Time Regulations

The EU Working Time Directive provides general rules on limiting workers’ working hours and providing for rest breaks and holidays. The Directive applies to all member states in the European Union and is implemented in the UK via the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR).

The WTR apply to employees and workers but not self-employed contractors.  In a production context, the WTR will therefore apply to freelance ‘workers’ (see Determining Employment Status section above).  The key provisions from the WTR are as follows:

Rest breaks

  • a 20 minute rest break if the day’s working time is more than 6 hours ;
  • an uninterrupted 11 hour rest break in every 24 hour period;
  • 1 uninterrupted day (24 hours) off every 7 days or, at the engaging entity’s choice, 2 uninterrupted days (48 hours) off every 14 days; and
  • an individual worker can’t opt out of the rest break provisions – a collective agreement is needed to do so.

Working Week

  • a maximum 48 hour working week; and
  • a worker can ‘opt-out’ of the 48 hour rule.

Holidays

  • an entitlement of 5.6 weeks’ per year (see Holiday – Entitlement and Pay section above); and
  • a payment in lieu should be made at the end of the contract for any accrued holiday that an individual has been unable to take.

Night Work

  • a limit of 8 hours night work on average per day; and
  • no more than 8 hours in each 24 hour period if the work involves special hazards or heavy physical / mental strain.

In addition to the above provisions, organisations are also required to maintain records to demonstrate the WTR have been complied with.  A production should therefore ensure that for all crew it maintains records of work patterns, hours worked, rest periods and holidays.  Individual contracts must also detail the expected working hours and holiday entitlement.

The WTR are also relevant to health and safety issues.  If a breach in health and safety occurs, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will look to ensure that an organisation has complied with its WTR obligations. If an accident occurred due to lack of concentration or exhaustion and the relevant worker had not been given the correct statutory breaks, the employer is likely to be found liable.