Working Time Directive future might be uncertain post-Brexit, but it still matters right now

With the 29th March 2019 fast approaching, employment laws are one of the many issues still to be ironed out. The most prominent of these is the Working Time Directive. The Institute for Public Policy Research has created a report called A level playing field for workers to examine the current situation and suggest future plans.

The main element of EU employment law in the UK is the European Working Time Directive.

Some companies, politicians and even journalists seem to believe, or at least strongly feature, the idea that the EU Working Time Directive is entirely about 48-hour weeks (averaged over 17 weeks). There are a number of other rules which must be met.

Here are some lesser-known ones:

  • You must give night workers a health assessment at regular intervals.
  • Even if your workers have opted out of the maximum working week, you must still keep records of their opt-out and how many hours they have worked.
  • Production line workers or other workers performing monotonous work/ work with a pre-determined rate must have “adequate” rest breaks during their shift
  • Workers must have at least 24 hours rest in each 7-day period. If on a fortnightly schedule, this can either be two 24-hour rest periods per 14 days, or one 48 hours rest period per 14 days.

This list is a fragment and should not be taken as guidance; for the full Working Time Directive as of 2003 please see here.

Both the UK and the EU want to negotiate an agreement on the continuation of these regulations as part of creating a “level playing field” for trade. 73% of people surveyed in the UK supported the “protection or extension” of the Working Time Directive, and also supported maintaining of improving the rights of temporary agency workers.

The government has previously made it clear that EU employment legislation would be copied into UK law after Brexit. Theresa May recently said that the EU could “be confident that we will not engage in a race to the bottom in the standards and protections we set” (May 2018).

The solution that both the UK and the EU originally suggested is a non-regression clause, where both sides agree not to reduce standards below what is currently agreed. However, this type of agreement doesn’t cover all possible deregulation events, it is weakly enforced, and it only addresses the current set of employment regulations, not anything that the EU may decide in the future.

These problems are recognised, and an “enhanced” non-regression clause has been put forwards, which would cover all deregulation circumstances explicitly, be enforced in a stronger form with binding decisions and sanctions, and could be governed by a “supranational” court.

However, this approach still doesn’t cover any future developments in employment legislation. For this, the IPPR recommends a “common rulebook” approach which would somehow link the employment legislation of the UK and the EU in the future.


All of these negotiations are ongoing and worth paying attention to for future company plans. Currently (Week 41 October 2018) the European Working Time Directive is still active and relevant to Britain, and there is more than 17 weeks to go until Brexit officially happens (24 weeks to be precise), so companies should still be considering this in their employment management.

Luckily, the Tensor Time and Attendance System can help employers with these regulations. Our flagship WinTA.NET software includes all of the regulations. These can be altered to suit your situation: for example, to record your opted-out employees or set a fortnightly rest pattern.

Should you try to set a shift pattern which would infringe a Working Time Regulation, the system will pre-warn you.

You can also run reports which show helpful data such as:

  • Average hours worked during any period.
  • Instances when rest day rules have been broken.
  • When night workers are due a health assessment.

The context-sensitive search facility enables you to search using only part of a code or name, and you can filter results using standard and customised filters.

For more information about how our Time and Attendance system can help you or to Book a Demoplease get in touch.

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