The legal number of hours between shifts is determined by the Working Time Regulations 1998 directive, subsequently amended by the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007 directive.

The Regulations specify requirements for:

  • Night work hours
  • Daily and weekly rest periods
  • Maximum weekly working time
  • Annual leave

For adult workers (over 18 years) there are three types of break – rest breaks at work, daily rest and weekly rest. The minimum rest period in a 24-hour period should not be less than 11 consecutive hours. In general, workers are entitled to at least 11 hours rest per day, at least one day off each week, and a rest break during the shift if it is longer than six hours. For an adult worker, that minimum rest break is 20 minutes uninterrupted.

For young workers, the minimum rest period is 12 hours in any 24 hour period but rest may be interrupted by short duration work or periods of work being split up during the day.

Opt-out agreement

An employer cannot insist that a worker works more than 48 hours per week on average. Any more than this is voluntary and subject to an opt-out agreement.

Note that for night workers, there is a maximum of eight hours work in any 24 hours on average and a right to free health assessments.

Mobile workers are subject to a variation of these rules under the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations.

You can visit the Department for Business Innovation & Skills for more information on the Working Time Regulations and the rules for averaging out the above time limits over a period of time.

Further reading on employment law and advice for employees

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