Maximum working hours in the UK in 2022: everything you need to know

17 November 2022 by Robin - 9 minutes of reading time

maximum working hours 2022

What are the maximum working hours per week in the UK? Can I work more than that? How is it calculated? If you are employed, you may not work more than a certain amount. Your Benefits will tell you everything you need to know, including how much it is, how to calculate our hours worked weekly, and how to work more than the maximum working hours amount.

Maximum working hours UK

In the UK, you may not work more than 48 hours weekly on average. Indeed, this is typically when taking the average of a period of more than 17 weeks. However, to work more than that, the 48-hour work week can be opted out of.

You may know this law under a different name. Indeed, the law is also known as the ‘working time regulations’ or the ‘working time directive’.

You cannot be coerced into opting in or out of the 48-hour week. Indeed, whether you adhere to it is your choice

Does the maximum working hours law apply to me?

Maximum working hours UK

Note that if you are younger than 18 years old, there is a maximum amount of hours that you can work. More specifically, you cannot work more than 8 total hours dailyPer week, you may not work more than 40 hours. This is including overtime work, or if you work overtime.

You may be a night worker. This could be through a collective agreement, and you may have normal rest periods.

There are also exceptions to this law. Indeed, you may work in a job that requires you to work more than 48 hours weekly. Indeed, this may be the case if you work in surveillance or security, the armed forces, police or emergency services. You are also considered an exception if you work in the following:

  • You do not need to keep track of your time and you are in charge. This is likely the case if you are a managing executive, for example;
  • On vessels on in land waterways, as a sea-fisherman or a seafarer;
  • In a private household as a domestic servant;
  • Where you have to work as 24h staff.

How to calculate working hours

Typically, your weekly working hours can be averaged out in a 17 weeks period. Indeed, this is also known as a ‘reference period’. As such, in the UK, you may work more than 48 hours per week. However, this is if your average working hours weekly over 17 weeks are fewer than 48 hours.

Your ‘reference‘ period could differ, depending on your job. Indeed, this is likely the case you are in the offshore oil and gas sector. Then, your reference period is 52 weeks. Additionally, you may be a trainee doctor. Then, your reference period is 26 weeks.

You may be 18 years old. If this is the case, you may not do an average of your weekly working hours. Indeed, you cannot exceed 40 hours worked in any given week.

To calculate your total working hours, take the number of hours you worked weekly, for the amount of time of your reference period. Indeed, let’s say that that is 17 weeks. Then, you add up the 17 number of hours that you worked weekly, then divide that by 17.

For example, this may look like the following: (46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 46 + 49 + 50 ) / 17 = 46,4 hours. Here, you worked more than 48 hours during two weeks, however, your average weekly hours worked do not exceed 48 hours for the reference period.

As such, in the given example, you did not exceed your maximum working hours per week.

What kind of work counts toward my maximum working hours?

How to calculate working hours

Additionally, you may wonder what counts as work. Well, if you are on paid overtime or unpaid overtime that you were requested to do, both of these count as work. Furthermore, the following also count in a working week:

  • In case you do not have a fixed place of work: travelling to and from work, at the beginning and end of your working day. The travel needs to be to be between your home and your work;
  • Any period determined as ‘working time’ through a contract;
  • Any period spent on the phone or any other type of call while at your workplace;
  • Periods of time spent working abroad;
  • Lunches in the context of your work. For example, this includes working lunches;
  • Any period spent travelling in the context of your work;
  • Training related to your job.

Additionally, you may have more than one job. If this is the case, your combines working hours per week still should not exceed 48 hours on average. If your hours go over this limit, you can adhere to an opt-out agreement. Otherwise, you may work less to not exceed the 48 hours limit.

What kind of work does not count towards my maximum working hours?

There are some kinds of work that are not included in your working week. Indeed, they include the following:

  • Holidays, whether paid or unpaid;
  • Overtime that is both unpaid and for which you volunteered (if it was asked of you, then it counts in your working hours);
  • For those with a fixed place of work: travels to your work and coming back from it;
  • Any travels done not within your working hours,
  • Breaks where you are not working. This can include, for example, your lunch break;
  • Periods of time spent on calls while not being at your workplace.

How to opt out of the 48-hour week?

You may want to work more than 48 hours weekly. You may do so only if you are older than 18 years old. Indeed, then, you may work more than the maximum working hours per week, which is also known ‘opting out’. You may do so either for a set period or an indefinite amount of time. 

Note that your employer can request that you opt out of the 48 hours work week. However, you do not have to agree to do so. It is your right to refuse, and if you do, you cannot be fired or treated poorly for that reason alone.

To opt out of the 48 hour week, you have to do so in writing. More specifically, you must first specify that you want to work for more than 48 hours weekly. Then, you must indicate the notice period you would give your employer if you change your mind. This can be up to 3 months.

The notice period is the amount of time you would give your employer between notifying them of something, and then doing it. For the 48-hour week, this is the time between when you notify them that you want to go back to the 48-hour week, to the time when you actually go back to working 48 hours or less.

Then, you must sign and date the document stating that you want to opt out of the 48-hour week.

Am I unable to opt out of the 48-hour week?

Certain types of workers are unable to opt out of the 48-hour maximum working hours‘ week. Indeed, then, you are unable to work more than 48 hours weekly on average. This applies to you if you are one of the following, a:

  • Security guard, operating or in charge of a vehicle transporting high value goods;
  • Worker, operating on a boat or ship;
  • Staff operating on planes or for an airline;
  • Workers that work in the road transport industry. This may include delivery drivers, for example. However, you are excluded from this if you drive a vehicle under 3.5 tonnes;
  • Staff who drive or/and operate certain vehicles. Indeed, they need to be covered by the EU rules on driver’s hours. An example of such covered job are bus drivers.

You may want to cancel your opt-out agreement. Indeed, you may do so even if the opting-out is part of your employment contract. Indeed, you may cancel the agreement whenever you want to. You cannot be forced or coerced by your employer to cancel your opt-out agreement.

The minimum amount of time you may give your employer as notice is 7 days. Indeed, you need to tell them of your decision a minimum of 7 days in advance. However, the period may be indicated in your opt-out agreement. Then, it could be between 7 day and 3 months.

What other benefits or aid can I get?

There are a number of things that your work impacts. For example, the work that you do influences the type of National Insurance contributions that you need to make. Indeed, certain benefits are impacted by the type of contributions that you pay:

Benefits impacted by National Insurance contributions in 2022
Benefit name Class 1 contributions (employees) Class 2 contributions (self-employed) Class 3 contributions (voluntary contributions)
Bereavement Support Payment Impacted Impacted Not impacted
Maternity Allowance Impacted Impacted Not impacted
Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) Impacted Impacted Not impacted
Contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) Impacted Not impacted Not impacted
New State Pension Impacted Impacted Impacted
Additional State Pension Impacted Not impacted Not impacted
Basic State Pension Impacted Impacted Impacted

National Insurance contributions are payments made to be able to receive State Pension. Additionally, it is necessary in order to receive certain benefits. Furthermore, benefits are impacted by the types of National Insurance contributions that you make.

For example, you may want to earn Maternity Allowance. If you are employed and pay Class 1 or Class 2 contributions, your benefit is likely to be impacted.

Indeed, you could be looking at the 48-hour week rule because you are expecting a baby. Then, if you are employed, there are a number of benefits you could be eligible for. Indeed, you could receive Statutory Maternity Pay or/and Leave. If you adopted a child, you may be eligible to get Adoption Pay and Leave.

Are there additional benefits I could get?

Remember, if you are looking at the maximum working hours per week that you can and can’t work, there are likely benefits that you are able to receive. In terms of parental benefits, if you want to share your parental leave and pay, you can apply for Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Indeed, for most of these benefits, you will be able to take time off to take care of your baby. Then, you will still be able to be paid, but you will not need to be working. Furthermore, you may even be eligible for Paternity Leave and Pay.

Can I get benefits if I am self-employed?

It’s possible that you are self-employed. Then, the 48-hour week is likely to not apply to you. However, fear not, as there are likely other benefits that you could claim.

Citizens Advice may be able to help you with additional questions. You can contact them through their email address.

For example, you could be eligible for Universal Credit. Indeed, normal employees are able to have a number of maximum working hours per week. However, only people working part-time, doing certain work or being self-employed are able to claim Universal Credit.

Robin is a writer for Your Benefits, writing about aids that people may be entitled to. He is currently working on his Master in journalism at the Institut Supérieur de Formation au Journalisme in Lille.

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