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Last checked 14/03/2018

Working hours

If you employ staff, you need to know the basic rules about working hours and guarantee the minimum standards set by the EU directives. You should respect the rules covering minimum daily and weekly rest, breaks, night work as well as annual leave and maximum weekly working time.

Your EU country might apply rules that are more favourable to workers. You can read more about the laws on working hours in your country below:

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Working time and rest

As an employer, you must ensure that your staff do not work more than 48 hours per week on average (including overtime), over a reference period of up to 4 months. Your employees must be given at least 11 consecutive hours of daily rest and at least 24 hours of uninterrupted weekly rest every 7 days, over a reference period of 2 weeks.

Breaks

If your employees work more than 6 hours a day, you must ensure that they are given a break, the duration of which is specified in the collective agreements or by national law.

Annual leave

Beyond the daily and weekly rest periods your staff have the right to at least 4 weeks of paid holidays per year. You cannot replace these holidays with a payment, unless the employment contract has ended before the staff member has used up all their annual leave.

Night work

If your employees work at least 3 hours of their daily shift or a certain proportion of their yearly working time in a period of 7 hours defined by national law and including the time from midnight to 05:00, they qualify as night workers.

Your night workers may not work more than an average of 8 hours per 24 hours. If their work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, you should ensure that they do not exceed the daily limit of 8 hours in any 24-hour period.

Night workers should also be guaranteed free health assessments respecting medical confidentiality before they start carrying out night work and at regular intervals afterwards. If your night workers suffer from health problems related to the fact that they work nights, you must transfer them to day work whenever possible.

Different working time obligations

Derogations from some of the working time obligations are possible, if allowed by national law.

If the working hours of your employees are not measured or predetermined, such as for managing executives, you might not have to apply working time obligations.

If the work requires continuity of presence, service or production, you can postpone the rest periods of your staff. You can do so if you hire staff working in:

  • hospitals or similar establishments
  • fire and civil protection services
  • industries where work cannot be interrupted for technical reasons
  • agriculture

If permitted by national law, you may have an agreement with a staff member to work beyond the 48 hour limit. Your employees can refuse to give their agreement or they can revoke it at any moment. As their employer, you should respect their decision and not harm or disfavour them. You need to keep up-to-date records of all workers who carry out such work. This opt-out only applies to the 48 hour limit, not to the other working time rules.

When your staff operate transport services for passengers or goods by rail, air, road or waterway, you must follow special working time rules.

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