The way working hours are arranged can help an organisation to manage its business and help workers balance their responsibilities at work and at home. Working hours can greatly affect work-life balance. Many businesses are under pressure to satisfy demands 24/7 and must balance this with the needs of their workers. This is leading to a rise in a more flexible working approach, which includes flexitime, shift work, job sharing or home-working.
The Working Time Regulations (1998) govern the hours anyone can work. They determine the maximum weekly working time, pattern of work and holidays, plus the daily and weekly rest periods. They also cover the health and working hours of night workers. There are a small number of exceptions: certain regulations may be excluded or modified by a collective or workforce agreement, and certain categories of worker are excluded.
In general the Working Time Regulations provide rights to:
- a limit of an average 48 hours a week on the hours a worker can be required to work, though individuals may choose to work longer
- 5.6 weeks' paid leave a year
- 11 consecutive hours' rest in any 24-hour period
- a 20-minute rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
- one day off each week
- a limit on the normal working hours of night workers to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessments.
There are special regulations for young workers, which restrict their working hours to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. They are entitled to two days off each week.
Any proposals to change patterns of working are best carried out in a consultative way, explaining the reasons behind such a move and the benefits which may accrue to both the organisation and worker.