European Work Time Directive

The aim of the working time directive is to ensure that workers are protected against adverse effects on their health and safety caused by working excessively long hours, having inadequate rest or disrupted work patterns.

The working time directive provides for:

  • a maximum 48 hour working week averaged over a reference period;
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours a day;
  • a rest break where the working day is longer than six hours;
  • a minimum rest period of one day a week; and
  • a statutory right to annual paid holiday of 4 weeks;
  • night working must not exceed eight hours a night on average




Council Directive 93/104/EC on the organisation of working time was adopted on 23 November 1993 and is based on Article 118a of the Treaty of Rome. This article sets the goal of promoting improvements in the standards of health and safety of workers in the EU. Measures are proposed by the European Commission and agreed by Ministers from all the Member States in the Council (including the UK). The directive is quite separate from the "Social Protocol" attached to the Maastricht Treaty.

The working time directive is implemented in UK domestic law by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (Statutory Instrument 1998/1833) which entered into force on 30 September that year. Leaflets and guidance booklets are available from the Department of Trade and Industry free of charge tel. 0845-6000925 and through the DTI's website.



Certain workers currently are excluded from the Directive including whole areas of the transport sector, doctors in training and off shore workers. Around 5.6 million people (or 4 per cent of total employment in the EU) work in these sectors, mostly in the road transport industry.

The Commission adopted a proposal in November 1998 covering working time arrangements for the excluded sectors and these measures are currently under discussion in the Council.




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