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Working Hours and Holidays

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 12 Jan 2021 | comments*Discuss
Workers' Rights Allowance Part-time

Working hours and holidays are now subject to a raft of legislation aimed at making sure that workers get a reasonable work-life balance that will reduce stress and increase performance. Working hours are restricted to minimum levels, although there are some exceptions and loopholes. There are a number of different types of leave as well, including annual holiday allowances, Compassionate Leave, and Maternity Leave to name just a few.

Working Time Directive

The European Working Time Directive has had a direct impact on many people, particularly those working on production lines and other more traditional factory-based jobs. Generally, most workers will now have the right to:
  • A non-working period of at least 11 hours each day
  • A whole 24 hours off every week
  • A 48-hour working week
  • 4 weeks annual leave in each year
There is also a break of at least 20 minutes if the working day is six hours long or more, but the employer is not obliged to pay during the rest period or count it towards the working day.

But the law is very complicated and it's tricky making simple rules. Many of the restrictions on hours are averages so complex time recording and periodical reviews are necessary to ensure compliance. And people can opt out of the working week, either by choice or coercion. Night shift workers must now have health assessments to make sure that night work is not damaging their health and they are not allowed to opt out.

Peer Pressure

In many white-collar jobs, the working hours directives are completely ineffective. As there is no official time keeping in many offices, workers put in long hours if they see their managers and co-workers doing the same, or are pressurised to work for as long as it takes to get a project finished or a deadline met. Many office-based workers will not have union representation either, which makes it difficult to break a culture of commercial and peer pressure that causes this culture of long hours.

Taking Time Off

Many people are lucky enough to have a greater holiday allowance than the norm, which is currently 28 days each year for people who work a five-day week. Part-time workers now receive the same amount of leave as full-timers but pro rata for the hours they work.

Although there are eight Bank Holidays in the UK, employers are not obliged to give them as time off and if they do, they are allowed to count them as part of a holiday allowance. The allowances also depend on whether someone is considered a worker, an employee, or self-employed.

Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave

Maternity leave has been established for many years now but paternity and parental leave are relatively new on the scene in the UK.

You are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave and a further 26 weeks additional maternity leave, which make 52 weeks in total. For more details about your entitlement, and to see if you qualify for statutory maternity leave, visit www.direct.gov.uk. Many employers offer their own scheme, which is likely to be more generous and related to an employee's salary at the time of the pregnancy.

Paternity leave is intended for the non-child carrying partner to be available at the time of the birth and for the first two weeks after the birth. Paternal leave can be taken by either parent regardless of their sex and at anytime until the child is five years old. Any parent who has been employed for a year or more can take 13 weeks off at any point during those first five years, although it is unpaid. There is more detail about both paternity and parental leave in our Family Commitments And Your Working Rights article.

Other types of leave, such as compassionate leave, are known in government-speak 'time off for dependants'. There is a statutory right for employees to be given time off, without pay, to deal with emergencies such as a death in the family, an ill child, or anything else concerning a dependant that requires someone to be at home. Employees are allowed 'reasonable' time off, and as with maternity leave, this can be paid, depending on the organisation's policy, if there is one.

Check Contracts

As has been made clear throughout, the government lays down minimum requirements and it is up to the employer to decide whether to stick to those minimums, with regard to both working hours and leave, or to offer more. An employment contract, sometimes with an associated staff handbook, will detail the allowances and improving them is up to the bargaining powers of the employee or a union, if there is a recognised one at the workplace.

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[Add a Comment]
I work in an office - the firm was taken over 5 years ago under TUPE regulations.I work 3 days a week -I have been employed for 14 years.I have always had 16 annual days leave and 7 statutory bank holidays and been paid in full for the full 23 days ( I do not get Good Friday as paid leave as I do not work Fridays) As Christmas Day and New Years Day 2020 fall on a Friday can I take those two days in lieu the following week and expect to be paid for them? Or because they fall on a Friday and I do not work Friday do I just miss out on them ?
DawnieK - 23-Oct-20 @ 9:58 AM
Can my managers pick when I take my holiday
suze - 2-Jun-19 @ 7:00 PM
@Kate - annual leave is just that, annual leave. You do not have to take your phone or laptop as you are on holiday unless you have signed something to say that it's part of your job.
Na - 27-Jul-18 @ 2:36 PM
Hi I am due to go on holiday in a couple of weeks and the company/boss are expecting me to take my phone and lap top. Ive refused but am now feeling like Im being bullied into it. Any advice gratefully received.
Kate - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:36 PM
A member of staff at work made me miss 5 doctors appointments booked outside of working hours by piling more and more work on me to ensure I could never finish work in time to get there , even though he was informed each time of my need to get away on time My manager refused to act so I went over him to my area manager who made the decision thatI was "entirely to blame" as I had booked them in "my own free time".........the same employee then tried again to make me miss a sixth appointment booked in work time as instructed. This time I just ignored him and ensured I got the medical attention I needed. The company refuse to act against him, has he or the company acted legally ?
disco - 10-Sep-17 @ 7:48 AM
Do you know what the shift break entitlements are for the Co Op food group?
JLC - 6-Jul-17 @ 5:35 PM
kk - Your Question:
I have just had 3 days off work on sick I cant get sick pay.I cant afford to lose 3 days unpaid so am I entitled to use some of my holiday days to cover ??

Our Response:
You would have to negotiate this directly with your employer.
WorkingRights - 23-Jun-17 @ 11:36 AM
I have just had 3 days off work on sick i cant get sick pay.I cant afford to lose 3 days unpaid so am i entitled to use some of my holiday days to cover ??
kk - 22-Jun-17 @ 3:44 PM
i work 10 hours a week , if i work overtime do i get extra hollidays on top of my allowence each month ?
debbie - 16-Feb-17 @ 5:28 PM
can a company take bank holidays away from me without giving anything in return. without my express permission my company has refused to give me Christmas and Boxing day bank holidays hours back because they fell on my rest days.
daitoon - 4-Jan-17 @ 11:53 PM
Can your employer refuse to pay holiday pay if you are on probation period?
Em - 30-Dec-16 @ 10:57 PM
I had an accident at work which was not my fault and I had to take 2 days off to recover from my ankle injury. when i received my pay packet my employer had deducted one days pay and gave me one day holiday pay do they have the right to pay me a days holiday without my consent.
SPUD - 24-Nov-16 @ 12:14 AM
Does your lieu have to be used by a certain. Date I was told you have to use it by October. I currently have20 hrs plus to use up but when. I enquire. I get told they will have to look at the rotas. But other staff. Have had there's. Also was told I was entitled to. Paternity. Leave but even though. It said on them rotas I was on paternity leaveI was refusedit after being told I was entitled. To it my name was on the rota as being on paternity leaveso why would I be refused it. So I had touse my weeks holidayto bring my pay up tothe paymentI was expectingthankyou fir your helpif you can Alan Eustace
AL - 26-Sep-16 @ 2:40 AM
I work 5 hours per day, Monday to Friday & 4 & half hours every other Saturday.. I have worked in this employment for 11 years. Recently my father was rushed in hospital, we thought we were losing him but fortunately he made a recovery.. So for two days I was by his side & supporting my mam I also informed my supervisor at the time I wouldn't be at work because of my family situation.. When I got back to work they decided, because I didn't ring in sick they would take two days holidays from me.. Instead of two days without pay which could of also been an other option as my fellow employees have had happen to them. Which would of been a fair enough agreement! Are my supervisors allowed to take holidays from ? Thankyou
Unsure individual.. - 10-Jul-16 @ 12:59 PM
bighubby - Your Question:
Went to a different job and the supervisor told us it was no good goiung on price work as there is not enough to be made so told him ill just do hours doing the same work as the guys on price but now being forced to work price can they do that

Our Response:
It depends whether you are employed or self-employed and whether you have a contract. You would need to see what the terms of the contract are and whether there is a clause in the contract that allows your employer to change them.
WorkingRights - 12-Apr-16 @ 11:18 AM
went to a different job and the supervisor told us it was no good goiung on price work as there is not enough to be made so told him ill just do hours doing the same work as the guys on price but now being forced to work price can they do that
bighubby - 11-Apr-16 @ 11:59 AM
As a self employed person working within a salon renting a chair, if the salon is closed on all bank holiday Monday's am I still entitled to get those back?? Also good Friday salon is open and I always work Friday's do I have to pay for this day?
Lou - 1-Mar-16 @ 4:48 PM
meg - Your Question:
I work 20 hours per week cash in hand so have no contract, am I entitled to holiday?

Our Response:
You are working illegally, therefore you are not entitled to holidays and have no working rights.
WorkingRights - 1-Oct-15 @ 11:54 AM
I work 20 hours per week cash in hand so have no contract, am I entitled to holiday?
meg - 30-Sep-15 @ 12:37 PM
Been working in a co-op food store for 14 years, New manageress has recently taken over and has told us we have to do split shifts, late shift and give her hours we are available to work and if we say we can't work them she's asking for proof of why we are unable to work these hours, if she doesn't agree to these hours she will not accept any reason for refusing them, all staff including myself are feeling under pressure and extremely stressed at the moment, so some views, comments or advice would be helpful please.
titch - 12-Mar-14 @ 4:32 PM
I work as a direct employed maintenance man for 5 days per week which gives me 40 hours. My employer allows me 15 days holiday per year plus the 8 bank holidays. Is this the correct allowance? I was under the impression that I should receive 20 days plus the 8 bank holidays I've worked for the same employer for 10 years now and it's always been 15 days. If i'm correct about it being 20 days would my employer have to backdate the holiday which I haven't taken but was entitled to? Thankyou. Mark
mark - 15-Aug-13 @ 7:59 PM
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