top of page

Maximum Weekly Working Hours - The 48-hour week

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

In the UK the working time regulation does not permit you to work more than 48 hours per weeks.

This introductory article will discuss the working time regulation. It is important to know the law as a new employer when hiring staff to help you do your work.

If you are a member of staff it is important for you to know that legally you cannot work more than 48 hours per week and that you can if you desire opt-out of the 48 hours working time.

Calculating your hours

Your average working hours are calculated over a ‘reference’ period, normally 17 weeks. This means you can work more than 48 hours one week, as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than 48 hours a week.

Bear in mind that if you are under 18 yrs old you cannot work more than 40 hours in any one week.


Some jobs have different reference periods, ie:

  • trainee doctors have a 26-week reference period

  • the offshore oil and gas sector has a 52-week reference period

You have more than one job

If you have more than one job, your combined working hours shouldn't be more than 48 hours a week on average.

Working over 48 hours limit

If you work more than 48 hours on average you can either reduce your hours to meet the 48-hours limit or sign an opt-out agreement.

Try our calculator

What does not count as working hours

A working week doesn’t include:

  • time you spend on call away from the workplace

  • breaks when no work is done, eg lunch breaks

  • travelling outside of normal working hours

  • unpaid overtime you’ve volunteered for, eg staying late to finish something off

  • paid or unpaid holiday

  • travel to and from work (if you have a fixed place of work)

What count as working hours

A working week includes:

  • job-related training

  • time spent travelling if you travel as part of your job, ie: sales rep

  • working lunches, ie: business lunches

  • time spent working abroad

  • paid overtime

  • unpaid overtime you’re asked to do

  • time spent on call at the workplace

  • any time that is treated as ‘working time’ under a contract

  • travel between home and work at the start and end of the working day (if you don’t have a fixed place of work

Opting-out of the 48 hour week

if you want to work more than 48 hours a week on average if you’re over 18. This is called ‘opting out’. Your employer can ask you to opt out, but you can’t be sacked or treated unfairly for refusing to do so and you are allowed to opt out for a certain period or indefinitely. It must be voluntary and in writing.

Example of opt-out agreement:

I [worker’s name] agree that I may work for more than an average of 48 hours a week. If I change my mind, I will give my employer [amount of time - up to 3 months’] notice in writing to end this agreement. Signed…………………………… Dated…………………

When you cannot opt-out legally

You cannot opt-out of the 48 hour week if you’re:

  • airline staff

  • a worker on ships or boats

  • a worker in the road transport industry, ie: delivery drivers (except for drivers of vehicles under 3.5 tonnes using GB Domestic drivers’ hours rules)

  • other staff who travel in and operate vehicles covered by EU rules on drivers’ hours, ie: bus conductors

  • a security guard on a vehicle carrying high-value goods

Cancelling your opt-out agreement

You are legally allowed to cancel your opt-out agreement whenever you want - even if it’s part of your employment contract. However, you must give your employer at least 7 days’ notice. You may have to give more notice (up to 3 months) if you have a written opt-out agreement and your employer can’t force you to cancel your opt-out agreement.


As a newly employer and staff it is important to know the working time regulation in force to avoid overworking your staff and causing stress to your staff due to many hours worked.

The traditional standard for Full-Time Employment was typically 40 hours a week in the past. However, many employers now consider employees as full-time when they work fewer hours i.e. over 30 hours, 35 hours, or 37.5 hours.

Use our free calculator to calculate your weekly wages. It will give you the net amount to be paid to you after tax if any. It will also calculate your overtime payment if you worked over the 48-hours limit only and tell you how much Income tax are deducted plus NI, but no NI or Income tax is deducted from overtime you just see the gross amount before deduction.

It does not take into account your lunch break or time off. In order to get the right estimate of your pay take out any deduction hours which are not paid. Only put the working hours to be paid. You will only get as a result the amount to be paid to you and the total number of hours worked for that week. It only calculate weekly wages if you want your monthly salary time it by 4 we may developed into calculating monthly salary.

If you like this blog post please share it with your peer and comment if you wish.

184 views0 comments


bottom of page