On average a person should not have to work more than 48 hours a week, unless they choose to, or work in a sector with its own special rules. Normal working hours should be set out in a contract of employment or written statement of employment particulars.
As well as carrying out normal duties, the working week may include:
- job-related training
- job-related travelling time, for example for sales reps
- working lunches, for example business lunches
- time spent working abroad, for a UK-based company
- paid and some unpaid overtime
- time spent 'on-call' at the workplace.
Working two different jobs
If you work two jobs you could either:
- consider signing an opt-out agreement with your employers if your total time worked is over 48 hours or
- reduce your hours to meet the 48-hour limit
What does not count as work?
A working week does not include:
- breaks when no work is done, such as lunch breaks
- normal travel to and from work
- 'on call' away from the workplace
- evening and day-release classes not related to work
- travelling outside of normal working hours
- unpaid volunteered overtime
- paid or unpaid holiday
48 hour week
Over 18's who wish to work more than 48 hours a week, can choose to opt out of the 48 hour limit. This must be voluntary and in writing. It cannot be an agreement with the whole workforce. Employees shouldn't be sacked or unfairly treated (for example refused promotion or overtime) for refusing to sign an opt-out.
Once an employee has agreed to opt-out of the 48 hour week, they have the right to cancel the agreement at any time by giving between one week and three month's notice. An employee can agree this notice period with their employer when they sign the opt-out. If no notice period is agreed then they only need to give one week's notice of cancellation.
Who is not covered by the working time limits?
The working week is not covered by the working time limits if the work occurs in the following areas:
- jobs where you can choose freely how long you will work (eg a managing executive)
- the armed forces, emergency services and police are excluded in some circumstances
- domestic servants in private houses
- sea transport workers
- mobile workers in inland waterways and lake transport
- workers on board sea going fishing vessels.
Overtime generally means any work over the basic working hours included in a contract. Regulations say that most workers cannot be made to work more than an average of 48 hours a week, but they can agree to work longer. This agreement must be in writing and signed by the employee.
There's no legal right to pay for working extra hours, and there are no minimum statutory levels of overtime pay, although an average pay rate must not fall below the National Minimum Wage. A contract of employment should include details of overtime pay rates and how they are worked out.
Overtime rates vary from employer to employer, some will pay extra for working weekends or Bank Holidays, and others won't.
Time off instead of pay for working overtime.
Instead of paying for overtime, some employers offer 'time off in lieu' (TOIL). This is agreed between the employee and employer, and any time taken off will normally be at a time that suits the employer. Some companies have rules on when time off can be taken, but others arrange time off on a case by case basis.
Overtime and payment for time off
Overtime isn't usually taken into account when working out holiday pay or paid maternity, paternity or adoption leave. However, it is taken into account when the overtime is guaranteed and the employee has to work the overtime as part of their contract of employment.
A contract of employment should include the conditions for working overtime. An employee only has to work overtime if their contract says so. Even if it does they cannot usually be forced to work more than an average of 48 hours per week.
Unless a contract guarantees an employee overtime, their employer can stop them working it. But an employer must not discriminate against the employee, or bully them, by letting others work overtime but stopping them from doing so.
A contract of employment should say what an employee's normal working hours and days are, and this may include or exclude working on Sundays. Whether this counts as overtime working depends on the contract of employment. Workers in betting premises and in retail shops can choose to opt out of working on a Sunday.
Overtime for part-time workers
Unless it says differently in their contract of employment, employers will usually only pay overtime to part-time workers when they work:
- longer hours than are included in their contract (although sometimes they might just get their normal rate)
- more than the normal working hours of full-time staff (when they must receive extra payments if full-time staff receive them)
- unsocial hours for which full-time staff would get more pay.
It is a legal requirement that part-time workers must not be treated less favourably than full-time staff.
All kinds of businesses operate on Sundays. Shops and leisure businesses are obvious examples, but wherever, an employee might be asked to work on Sundays. It is important to know employee rights when it comes to Sunday work.
Can employees be made to work on Sundays?
Employees should check either their contract of employment or written statement of terms and conditions, to see if they must work on Sundays, or would have to if they were asked. If it says so, the employee will have to work on Sundays. If it doesn't, then the only way of making an employee work on that day is by a change to their contract. This is something that must normally be agreed by both the employee and employer; otherwise making an employee work on Sundays would amount to a breach of contract.
Christians working on a Sunday
Practising Christians may have strong feelings about working on a Sunday. Everyone has the right not to be discriminated against because of their religion or belief (or because they have no religion or belief). Employers will usually try to accommodate such requests (for example, by changing a shift pattern).
Should you get more money for working on Sundays?
The agreement of pay is between the employer and employee as to whether extra pay is offered for Sunday work. There are no statutory rights in this area, so it depends on the employment contract. However, many businesses choose to reward employees who work outside normal working hours. Some pay time-and-a-half or double time, while others give extra time off.
Special rules if you are a shop worker or work in betting
Employees in a shop or in the betting industry (either at a betting shop open to the public or a bookmaker at a sports venue) have special rights. Employees can opt out of having to work on Sunday even if their contract says they have to. Employers are obliged to advise employees about this right within 2 months of an employee commencing work. These rights don't apply if an employee is employed to work on Sundays only.
Long-standing shop and betting workers
Long-standing shop or betting workers are already protected. If an employee is a shop worker, this applies if they have been working for the same employer since 25 August 1994. If an employee is a betting worker, the date is 2 January 1995. If employees fall into either of these categories they only have to tell their employer that they don't work on a Sunday. This extra protection does not apply in Scotland. If an employee is happy to work Sundays they can give their employer a written 'opting-in' notice that says they are prepared to work on Sundays.
Any shop or betting worker who opts into Sunday working has the right to opt out again at a later date (as long as they give the required notice).