Key HR Facts – Working Time & Rest Periods

[Page updated 18/11/2020]

The general statutory limits on working time and the requirements to provide rest periods and breaks are given below.  Additional regulations apply to some sectors such as road haulage, airlines, seamen.

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Please Note – We trust that you will find Key HR Facts to be a handy reference to the common statutory pay, leave and employment rights.   Those are given in good faith but do not constitute legal advice as we are not aware of the particular circumstances you have in mind.  Neither the author nor the founder nor associate content producers accept liability for the use of the information.

Rest break during a shiftAdults
For shifts of over 6 hours - a minimum of 20 mins. should be taken during the shift.
Must be able to leave normal workstation and be free of interruptions during the break
Young People Under 18 and over school leaving age
For shifts over 4.5 hours, a minimum of 30 mins. should be taken during the shift.
Only one break per 24 hours is necessary. Payment during the rest period is not mandatory.
Ideally break not taken at the beginning or end of the shift.
Daily rest period Adults
11 hours per day minimum in between work shifts.
Young People Under 18 and over school leaving age
12 hours rest between shifts.
Individual can not opt out unless a collective agreement exists on rest periods
Weekly rest period - AdultsEither 24 consecutive hours for one day per week or 48 hours in a fortnight i.e. flexibility to put two rest periods together or compensate within x days/weeks.

Young People Under 18 and over school leaving age
Expected to be given 2 days per week i.e. 48 hours.
Individual can not opt out unless a collective agreement exists on rest periods.
Maximum weekly hours - Young People aged under 18 Maximum of 40 hours per week and a limit of 8 hours per day,
The maximum applies to the total hours worked across all jobs if you hold more than one
Averaging out weekly hours is not permitted for those under 18 years of age hence the maximum is 40 hours each week.
Maximum weekly hours- Adults aged 18 or over Average of 48 per week, if an individual has not opted out of the 48 hour week.
May be averaged over a set period of 17 weeks.. The 48 hours limit applieds to all jobs your have i.e, you are not permitted to exceed 48 hours because you have more than one job.
In some industries this can be exceeded temporarily but the maximum does not apply to the following type of roles:
- security and surveillance;
- emergency services, police, armed forces;
- sea farers and fishermen;
- domestic servant in a private household;
- if 24-hour staffing is required;
- unmeasured working time and the individual is in control of his/her work decisions. For what counts a working hours or not see the Government site at
Night workers - AdultsMaximum = average of 8 hours per 24 hours period over 17 weeks.
Opting Out is not permitted.

Work that involves Special Hazards of Significant Mental or Physical Strain -

working hours limited to 8 hours in any 24 hours period.
Defined as an individual who normally works at least 3 hours of a shift between 2300 and 0600 hours on most nights.
Night workers must be given a free health assessment at regular intervals and transferred off nights if certified health issues arise.
Night workers - Young PeopleProhibited from working between:
- 2200 and 0600 or 2300 and 0700 or
- 2400 to 0400
Shift workers;Not entitled to daily and weekly rest periods and shift breaks in the ways above.Must be given compensatory rest periods at another time.
Exceptional or unforeseen event(s) An adult individual may be required to work in excess of the periods above is there is an exceptional or unforeseen event and the consequences are unavoidable.Compensatory rest periods/breaks must be given
Seasonal work surges or continuous operationsThe above re exceptional events also applies if there is a heavy seasonal demand or the need for continuous operations such as security.Compensatory rest periods/breaks must be given
Mobile workers such as drivers, traveling workersTime spent traveling to and from the last customer will usually be deemed to be part of the working hours. Hence this may affect break periods etc. Road transport and rail regulations may impose other limits on certain drivers.

Night work limits do not apply but they must be given compensatory rest periods.
Compensatory Rest PeriodsThese must be given as noted above if an individual is prevented from having a rest period or only a reduced period e.g. nature of the work, finish and start of shift times.Managers should check whether the working pattern allows for 90 hours of rest per week - if not, you should review the pattern as you may be deemed to breaking the regulations and damaging the health of employees.

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