Working Time Directive: How to Comply with the 48 Hour Maximum image

Working Time Directive: How to Comply with the 48 Hour Maximum

Staff Squared date icon26th September 2018

Tag iconOperations

The first of October marks 20 years since the Working Time Directive came into force. It is the UK’s leading statutory instrument stemming from the European Working Time Directive introduced in 1993 and is designed to regulate the amount of spent at work in order to protect the health and safety workers.

The main provisions of the Working Time Directive are:

  • an average or no more than 48 hours a week that someone can be required to work
  • 6 weeks’ paid time off per year
  • a rest period of 11 consecutive hours a day
  • a 20-minute rest break for working days longer than six hours
  • a minimum of one rest day per week
  • night working must not average out at more than eight hours at a stretch
  • workers between 16 and 18 are restricted to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week

It’s important for SMEs to understand the particulars of this legislation, especially for those who employ shift and night workers.  Over the next week or so we’ll take a closer look at your duty as an employer to comply with the Working Time Directive.

First, we turn our attention to your responsibilities as an employer relating to the 48 hours maximum work week.

Understand who is covered and what are the exceptions

The 48 hour working limit covers most full-time and part-time employees above the age of 18.  Like most cases, there are exceptions.  Broadly, these exception cases are employees in the following sectors:

  • air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport;
  • sea fishing, and other work at sea;
  • doctors in training;
  • the armed forces or the police, or to certain specific activities in the civil protection services.

Establish what counts towards “working time”

“Working time” is defined by the Working Time Directive as any period when the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his or her duties.

In addition to carrying out their normal duties, your employees working time includes:

  • job-related training;
  • job-related travelling time (e.g. as a sales rep);
  • working lunches (e.g. business lunches);
  • time spent working abroad;
  • paid and some unpaid overtime;
  • time spent on-call at the workplace;
  • travel time for mobile employees with no fixed place of work (also called Peripatetic workers).

Rule out what doesn’t count towards working hours

Don’t include the following:

  • breaks when no work is done (e.g. lunch breaks);
  • commuting to and from work;
  • time when they are on-call away from the workplace;
  • unpaid overtime that they have volunteered for (e.g. staying late to finish something off);
  • paid or unpaid holiday.

Calculate your employee’s working hours

Now that you have a good understanding of who it applies to and when, let’s look at how the calculation is done and go through a few scenarios.

In most cases, you add up your employees working time over the last 17 weeks and divide it by 17.  The last 17 weeks are referred to as the rolling reference period.   Bear in mind some careers have a different reference period.  For example, doctors in training have a 26-week reference period and the offshore sector has a 52-week reference period.

Let’s start with a straightforward example

Your workplace has a standard working week of 40 hours (8 hours a day, Monday to Friday).

Your employee does 10 hours overtime a week for the first 12 weeks of the 17-week reference period.

STEP ONE:  17 weeks of 40 hours + 12 weeks of 8 hours overtime (17 x 40) + (12 x 8) = 776 hours

STEP TWO: 776 hours ÷ 17 weeks in the reference period = 45.7 hours

45.7 hours per week is within the working time limits.

If your employee was absent

Let’s say your employee was absent during the last 17 weeks (any sort of leave or time off sick). You will need to make up the missing days by extending the reference period by the same number of days he/she was away.

Keeping with the same scenario above, your workplace has a standard working week of 40 hours (8 hours a day, Monday to Friday).

  • Your employee does 10 hours overtime a week for the first 12 weeks of the 17-week reference period.
  • They also take 3 days annual leave and work two normal day (16 hours) that week.
  • They return to work and continue with normal hours with no overtime for one week.

STEP ONE: add together the 16 weeks of normal hours, plus two days normal hours, plus the 12 weeks of overtime

(16 x 40) + (2 x 8) + (12 x 10) = 776 hours during the reference period

STEP TWO: include the time worked on the 3 days directly after the 17-week period

3 x 8 = 24 + 776 = 800

STEP THREE: 800 hours ÷ 17 weeks = 47

47 hours per week is within the working time limits.

Lastly, if your workplace is based on nightshifts

  • Your employee works 13 hours, 4 days a week.

STEP ONE: 13 x 4 = 52 hours x 17 weeks = 884

STEP TWO: Calculate the number of days you could have legally asked for them to work.  Bear in mind you must offer one day rest per week.

17 weeks x 6 days = 102 days in the reference period.

STEP THREE: divide the number of hours in the number of days in the reference period.

884 ÷ 102 = 8.67 is your average work day

STEP FOUR: Multiply this average by 6 days (a normal work week).

8.67 x 6 =  52 hours

Your employee is working 4 hours over the limit.  You either need to reduce their hours or draw up an opt-out agreement.

Monitor and record the weekly average

You must take reasonable steps to ensure the working time limit is complied with in the case of each worker to whom it applies.

For employees who work regular hours and aren’t in any real danger of surpassing the 48 hour limit, you still need to make occasional checks.  You should flag and monitor those closer to the limit.

You’ll also need to keep updated records of those who’ve opted out (along with the signed agreement), and a list of your night shift workers.  Don’t worry about keeping track of rest breaks.

Records must be kept for two years.  Your payroll or timesheet system will be a good start.  Check out our timesheet calculator if you’re looking for a quick way to add up your employee’s hours.

Of course, there is an easier way. Staff Squared HR software tracks everything you need to stay compliant with Working Time Directive.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Care Team - Staff Squared

Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers to the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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