Employment Contract Key Terms: Hours of Work & Notice Period

Employment Contract Key Terms: Hours of Work & Notice Period


What you include in your employment contract will be determined according to legal and best practice requirements and the nature of your business. Certain rights are imposed by statute regardless of the provisions of your employment contract and other terms are implied by law unless you specifically agree otherwise. Other than the above, you and the employee are largely at liberty to come to your own agreement. Key terms will include:

Hours of Work

The Working Time Regulations 1998 state the amount of time spent by workers working must not exceed forty eight hours per week, averaged out over any one reference period (normally 17 weeks). It is possible for an individual to opt out of the 48 hour maximum working week by agreeing with the employer in writing that it should not apply.

The Working Time Regulations 1999 replaced detailed requirements imposed on the employer of workers opting out of the 48 hour maximum working week with a requirement to keep up to date records of such workers.

The worker must have a rest break of 20 minutes if working over six hours (unless otherwise determined by collective or workforce agreement), a daily work break of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hours and an additional 24 consecutive hours weekly rest period over the weekly rest reference period (of 14 days). 

With respect to night workers, employers must take all reasonable steps to prevent them from working over 8 hours in any one twenty four hour period, averaged out over the night work reference period (of 17 weeks) with an actual eight hour limit where the work is hazardous or involves heavy physical or mental strain. Night workers are entitled to free health assessments and also have a right to change to suitable day work if convenient and the transfer is practicable.

Where health and safety issues may arise through monotonous or pre-determined work patterns, adequate rest breaks must be given.

There are currently certain excluded sectors and workers. Further, the limit on the working week, requirements for daily and weekly rest periods and breaks, and hours of work for night workers do not apply to workers whose working time is not compensatory rest or pre-determined, such as managing executives or other persons with decision making powers.

Failure by the employer to comply can lead to prosecution and unlimited fines, and the employee can go to an employment tribunal to enforce working time rights. Detrimental treatment for enforcing rights under the regulations is prohibited and dismissal in relation to working time rights is automatically unfair. Finally, collective agreements or workforce agreements may be used to exclude or notify certain of the above provisions.

Specific provisions apply in relation to young workers (between minimum school leaving age and 18).

Notice Period

There is a statutory minimum notice period, but longer contractual notice is often provided for. For the purposes of flexibility, you may expressly reserve the right to pay money in lieu as an alternative to the employee working out his notice.

For senior employees, you may expressly reserve the right to require the employee not to attend at work or perform all or part of his or her duties during the notice period. This is commonly known as "garden leave".

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