Working Time Regulations

The Working Time Directive, known commonly as WTR, Working Time Regulations, is a directive from the European Union. It gives EU workers the following rights:

  • Right to a minimum number of holidays each year
  • Rest breaks
  • Rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours
  • It restricts excessive night work
  • It provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week

The Directive was issued as an update on earlier versions from 22 June 2000 and 23 November 1993. Excessive working time being cited as a major cause of stress, depression and illness; the stated purpose of the Directive is to protect people’s health and safety.

In UK employment conditions the main factor here, and the one that particularly concerns agency workers is the right to work no more than 48 hours per week.

Should a candidate in a temporary assignment find they are working for more than 48 hours a week, over a period of 17 weeks, the agency who placed them in that role is in breach of the Regulations. However, it has been recognised that some people are prepared to work as many hours as they can and do not want this restriction on their working conditions.

For this reason the Regulations provide for a Temporary Worker to Opt-Out of this agreement by signing a 48 Hour Opt-Out Agreement stating that they understand the regulation but are prepared to work any hours that may arise. By signing this Opt-Out Agreement candidates are free to work for as many hours as they want and the agency is exonerated from any potential breach or penalty.

All candidates are given this 48 Hour Opt-Out agreement on registration. It is fully explained to them and they are given the option to sign or not. Most candidates prefer the freedom and willingly sign it. An alert is put against any candidate who does not want to Opt-Out and every caution is taken to ensure that this individual does not exceed the Regulations’ restriction on working hours.

Click here for contracts of employment and working hours on the government website

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