Employee holiday entitlement and working hours

Last updated: 2 May 2017

Your business has legal responsibilities for employees' working hours and holiday entitlement.

The following will help you find information on what employees are legally entitled to.

Working hours

Unless the worker has an opt out agreement, or an exemption applies, workers aged 18 or over cannot be forced to work for more than 48 hours a week on average.

Find guidance from Business Gateway on:

  • the maximum hours your employees can work
  • the different types of part time work
  • regulations for night work, Sunday work and overtime.
  • job sharing
  • changing an employees contracted hours
  • remuneration for out of hours work

Flexible working

Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee's needs, e.g. having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.

All employees have the legal right to request flexible working – not just parents and carers.

Visit GOV.UK to find out about flexible working and the application process.

Holiday entitlement

Almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year.

Visit GOV.UK to find out information on:

  • what time off employees are entitled to based on their contracted hours
  • how employees should book time off, and the notice period necessary

You can also use the GOV.UK site to calculate an employee's holiday entitlement.

Employee rights when on leave

The rights of your employees aren't usually affected when they take maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave.

Some employees can work up to 10 paid days during their leave.

Visit GOV.UK to find out about employee rights when on leave, including:

  • 'keeping in touch days' for employees on leave
  • protecting the terms and conditions of employees on leave
  • the rights of your employee to return to work
  • redundancy rights while employees are on leave

Giving employees time off work

Your staff may request time off for a range of reasons, such as illness or to assist a family member. They may be asked to do jury and Justice of the Peace service or undertake trade union duties.

For some of these activities your employees have the right to have time off and you can't refuse them. In other situations, you can choose how you handle requests for time off.

The Business Gateway site gives more information on when employees have the right to time off work.

Sunday working

Having to work on a Sunday depends on a person's employment contract. There are also special rules for shop workers and people who work in betting.

Visit GOV.UK for more information on:

  • Sunday working
  • Sunday working in shops and betting shops
  • opting out of Sunday working

Night working hours

If someone works at night, there are rules covering the hours they work.

Visit GOV.UK for information on:

  • night working hours and limits
  • workers aged 16 or 17
  • exceptions to night work limits
  • health assessments

Rest breaks

Workers over 18 are usually entitled to 3 types of rest break – rest breaks at work, daily rest and weekly rest.

Visit GOV.UK for information on rest breaks, including:

  • taking breaks
  • compensatory rest
  • exceptions
  • young workers
  • disputes