The Working Time Directive And How To Follow It

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This guide looks at the Working Time Directive, the UK legislation that dictates the amount of hours employees can work on average per week. 

It covers all the key details your fleet business needs to know about this important law and explains its relationship to the drivers’ hours rules.

Should I follow the Working Time Directive or drivers’ hours rules?

The Working Time Directive (WTD) is health and safety legislation that guarantees workers receive basic rights for the hours they work.

If you employ full time drivers, or workers who spend part of their working day driving and other parts of the day doing a different type of work, you will need to follow a second set of regulations as well. These are called the drivers’ hours rules. 

Both sets of rules are informed by legislation created by the European Union — each is a UK law that complies with EU rules, though there are some distinctions between the UK drivers’ hours rules and the EU legislation. 

Following Brexit, the UK Government has no intention in the foreseeable future to change these rules. Companies are expected to continue following all these regulations, which are part of UK law. 

It can be confusing to follow two separate sets of working time rules. Both sets are necessary, however, to cover all types of jobs where driving may be a part, but not all, of how someone spends their working hours. 

This guide explains both sets of rules. It also refers to telematics and tachograph technology, which can make it easier to track if you are following the rules correctly and also logs all-important evidence that you have done so.

What is the working time directive?

There are four key minimum requirements every employee gets as part of the WTD:

  • Rest period for every six hours worked 
  • 11 hour rest period every 24 hours 
  • 24 hour rest period for every week worked
  • Protections to ensure night workers aren’t put at risk

These four requirements are designed to ensure employees receive adequate rests and breaks both during and between shifts.

What does the working time directive mean?

The UK government’s overview of the working time directive explains that it means “you can’t work more than 48 hours a week on average, normally averaged over 17 weeks” — if you are aged 18 or over. 

Workers under 18 can’t work more than 40 hours a week or 8 hours a day. 

One of the important things to note about the working time directive is that workers can opt out of it. This means you can choose to work more than 48 hours a week. 

Employers can also ask you to opt out of it. However, you have the legal right to refuse this request and your employer can’t treat you unfairly or sack you if you decide not to opt out.

What are the Working Time Directive (WTD) rules?

The WTD rules promote the health and safety of UK workers. 

They outline legal minimum standards that every UK business must provide to its employees, covering rest periods and safety practices for night workers. 

WTD rules on rest periods 

  • You’re entitled to a rest for every six hours you work
  • You’re entitled to 11 hours of rest during every day you work  
  • You’re entitled to 24 hours of rest for every week you work 

WTD rules on night worker safety 

  • Your average working hours can’t be more than eight hours for every 24-hour period
  • You have the right (in some specific circumstances) to switch to day work

What are the drivers’ hours rules?

The drivers’ hours rules is UK legislation that applies to lorry drivers in tandem with the WTD.

These rules apply specifically to how long drivers can work for, the breaks they must legally take and the rest periods they must have between their shifts.  

The rules depend on whether the driver is operating a Passenger Carrying vehicle (PCV) or Large Goods Vehicle (LGV). These are the rules they must follow. 

Drivers’ hours rules for PCVs 

  • Continuous driving: limit of five hours and 30 minutes of driving time before a 30 minute break or there must be a break of 45 minutes within a period of eight hours and 30 minutes with a max time of seven hours and 45 minutes. If the longer shift is taken then there must be a further 30 minutes break at the end of the shift, unless the driver starts a rest period.
  • Daily driving: maximum of ten hours driving per day. 
  • Daily spreadover: this period shouldn’t be longer than 16 hours between the beginning and the end of work. 
  • Daily rest: there should be a minimum of ten hours continuous rest between two working days. This can be dropped to eight hours and 30 mins on three occasions in a working week. 
  • Fortnightly rest: a rest of 24-hours off work is required in any two week period. 

Drivers’ hours rules for LGVs 

  • Continuous driving: there isn’t a limit on how long drivers can be driving before they take a break. 
  • Daily driving: maximum of 10 hours driving per day. 
  • Daily duty: this concerns driving and other work and the maximum duty time is 11 hours. However, if the driver doesn’t drive more than four hours a day then the duty time doesn’t apply. 
  • Daily rest: There isn’t a specified time for rest period — the law only requires that the driver has rest periods that are sufficient to ensure they don’t cause harm to others or to themselves. 

It’s essential your business and your drivers follow both the WTD regulations and drivers’ rules.

Are there any exemptions to the WTD regulations?

There are some circumstances where there can be exemptions to elements of the Working Time Directive. 

These exemptions cover the following aspects of the WTD:

  • Maximum working time per week 
  • Minimum daily rest periods 
  • Minimum weekly rest periods 
  • Break periods 

The UK Government adds further detail to this by outlining the following job exceptions that mean you may need to work over 48 hours per week on average: 

  • If there’s a requirement for 24-hour staffing
  • Roles in the police, armed forces, or emergency services 
  • Security and surveillance occupations 
  • Domestic servants in private households
  • Sea-fisherpersons, seafarers, or people who work on inland waterway vessels 
  • If you’re the person in charge of your working hours, such as a managing director

You can also personally choose exemption to the WTD, if you decide to opt out of it — however, not all workers can choose exemption to the WTD. This must be your choice and your employee cannot put you under duress to exempt yourself from the WTD.

How fleets can monitor the hours their employees are working

It’s the legal responsibility of business owners to ensure their employees don’t work over 48 hours a week on average — unless the employee specifically chooses to opt out of this. 

If your company employees drivers then you can use telematics to help you monitor the number of hours your workers are using their vehicles.

This is because telematics devices track vehicle drive time. This gives you an electronic record of how many hours your employees have been driving for during work hours each week. 

If you want to use these devices to help ensure your company meets its legal requirement of guaranteeing your drivers don’t work more than 48 hours a week, check out iCompario’s telematics systems.

You can enter your business needs to make sure you get the right device for your company. You are likely to need a tachograph if your fleet contains HGVs, haulage vehicles and your drivers tend to transport goods for large parts of the day. For some companies it may be adequate to use a different type of telematics which gives you the data you need to keep a record of the driving hours and break times of your employees and combine that with their other working hours. 

Once you’ve done this you’ll have a telematics system that not only records the time your drivers spend working but also their driving behaviour. 

This will ensure your drivers work no more than their legal hours and give you the data your business needs to keep your vehicles on the road for longer — you can catch any behaviours that lead to wear and tear before they cause significant damage to your vehicles. 

So, invest in a telematics device and you’ll be able to keep to the Working Time Directive and keep your vehicles on the road for longer.

iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.

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