This piece of European Law came into force in the UK on the 1st October 1998.

It covers all part time and full time employees and in addition “workers” (including self employed, agency workers).

There are a number of types of employee that are excluded including those employed in the following sectors of activity:

  • Mobile workers in air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport
  • The activities of doctors in training (although a maximum working week is being phased in over the period to 2012)
  • Where characteristics peculiar to certain specified services, such as the armed forces or the police, or to certain specific activities in the civil protection services, inevitably conflict with the provisions of the WTR.

48 hour week

The basis of the new Law is that an employer cannot force an employee to work more than 48 hours a week unless the employee has agreed to do so in writing. An employee cannot be forced to agree to work over 48 hours a week and if he/she suffers any detriment due to a refusal to work more than 48 hours he/she can bring a complaint in the Tribunal.

A reduction in pay pro rata should an employee decide not to work greater than 48 hours is NOT a detriment pursuant to case law.

If an employer has employees who have agreed to contract out of the 48 hour week then they have to keep detailed records of time worked, etc.

Any employee who does contract out can give his/her employer 7 days’ notice that he/she no longer agrees to work more than 48 hours (note the employer can insist on up to three months’ notice if the employee agrees to the longer notice period in writing).

There are a number of additional employees rights introduced and these are as follows:

A minimum of 4 weeks’ paid holiday a year. Rest Breaks Employees aged 18 or over are entitled to a 20-minute break where the working day is longer than 6 hours.

Any breach by an employer of these terms can lead to a claim by an employee for unfair dismissal.