Last checked: 02/01/2023

Seafarers and inland waterway staff


Working hours and rest

If you employ staff on board a seagoing ship, their standard working hours are 8 hours per day, with one day of rest per week and additional rests on public holidays.

According to national rules, you have to guarantee that crewmembers stick to maximum working hours or minimum resting time:

You can divide the hours of rest into a maximum of two parts. If you split the rest, one of the two rest periods must last at least 6 hours and the interval between consecutive rest periods cannot exceed 14 hours.


The master of a ship has the right to request that a crewmember works additional hours if deemed necessary, e.g. for the immediate safety of the ship, persons on board or cargo, or to assist other ships or persons in distress at sea.

Paid annual leave

You must guarantee that your employees receive a minimum of 2.5 calendar days of paid annual leave per month and on a pro-rata basis for incomplete months. You cannot replace the minimum period of paid annual leave by an allowance, except when the employment is terminated.

Keeping records

As an employer, you have to keep a record of daily hours worked and rest periods taken by your crewmembers. You should provide each staff member with a copy of their records, endorsed by the master of the ship and by the employee.

Health assessments

Before your staff start to work on a ship, your crewmembers must possess a valid medical certificate attesting that they are medically fit to perform their duties.

Unless a shorter period is required, the medical certificates of your staff are valid for a maximum period of 2 years. If your crew members are under 18, the maximum period of validity is one year. Note that a certification of colour vision can be valid for a maximum period of 6 years.

In urgent cases, the competent authority may permit a crewmember to work without a valid medical certificate (or when its validity period expires during a voyage) until they reach the next port of call, where the crewmember can obtain a medical certificate from a qualified medical practitioner. You can do so if:

If you hire crewmembers to work on ships ordinarily engaged on international voyages, make sure that the medical certificate is at least provided in English.

Your crewmembers must have regular health assessments. If a watchkeeper suffers from health problems related to work performed during a night shift, you must transfer him/her, when possible, to day work.

Age limits

You cannot hire staff under 16 to work on a ship.

If you hire staff under 18, they cannot work during the night. Consider as night a period of at least 9 consecutive hours defined by national rules which includes the time from midnight to 5 am, for example from 10 pm to 7 am, or 8 pm to 5 am. Your staff aged between 16 and 18 can only work during the night if they're taking part in a training course when the competent authority has made an exception.

You cannot employ crewmembers under 18 if their employment, engagement or work is likely to jeopardise their health or safety. To find out which type of work is forbidden, follow the indications set by national rules or by the competent authority.

Inland waterway transport workers

Working time, paid annual leave, night shifts

Your staff (crew -members or shipboard personnel) can work 8 hours a day. You can request that your employees work longer if they respect an average of 48 hours of work per week within 12 months. Over the course of a 12-month period, your employees can work for a maximum of 2 304 hours. If you employ them for less than 12 months, you have to calculate the maximum permissible working time on a pro-rata basis.

Your workers cannot work more than 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 84 hours in any 7-day period. If you consider a 4-month period and there are more working days than rest days according to the work schedule, your workers must respect the average weekly working time of 72 hours.

You should ensure that your staff receives paid annual leave of at least 4 weeks or a corresponding proportion if you employ them for less than one year. You cannot replace the minimum period of paid annual leave by an allowance, except when their employment is terminated.

Based on a night period of 7 hours, your staff can work a maximum of 42 hours a week during the night– between 11 pm and 6 am.

Rest periods

Your employees cannot work for more than 31 days consecutively.

If the work schedule indicates that your workers have fewer working days than rest days, you must ensure that they are given as many consecutive rest days as the days as they worked consecutively. For example, if your staff work 10 consecutive days, you must give them 10 consecutive rest days. You can give your staff fewer consecutive rest days, starting immediately after the consecutive working days, if you respect the following conditions:

If your staff have more working days than rest days according to the work schedule, you should follow these indications in the table below for the minimum number of consecutive rest days:

Consecutive working days Rest days
From 1 to 10 0.2 rest days per consecutive working day
From 11 to 20 0.3 rest days per consecutive working day
From 21 to 31 0.4 rest days per consecutive working day

As indicated above, you should add up the partial rest days earned and ensure your staff is allocated these. Rest days can only be taken as full days. For example, if an employee works 12 days consecutively, they would be entitled to 3.6 rest days. They can rest for 3 full days and add 0.6 days to their next rest period.

Your staff must rest at least:

Seasonal work

If you employ workers on board a passenger vessel during a season (period of no more than 9 consecutive months during a 12-month period) you must respect the following limits for working hours:

You must give your staff 0.2 rest days per working day. During every period of 31 days, your staff must rest at least 2 days.

Keeping records

As an employer, you must keep a record of each worker's daily working hours and rest time.

You must include at least the following information:

These records must be kept on board until at least the end of the reference period and checked regularly with the members of staff. You must also provide your staff with a copy of the endorsed records. The copy of these records should be kept for at least one year.

Health assessments

You have to provide all your workers with a free annual health assessment, in compliance with medical confidentiality. If a night worker suffers from health problems related to work performed during a night shift, you must transfer him/her, when possible, to day work.

EU legislation

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