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Check how many hours you're working

Mae’r cyngor hwn yn berthnasol i Cymru

You might need to calculate how many hours you're working if:

  • you think you're working more than 48 hours a week
  • your employer wants you to work more than 48 hours a week
  • your employer has asked you to opt out of the 'Working Time Regulations'

If you're working less than 48 hours and feel like you're working too much, find out what to do if you're working too many hours.

There are 3 steps to checking your working hours:

  1. check if the 48-hour maximum working time limit applies to you
  2. check what activities you should count as working time
  3. calculate your average weekly working hours

If you need to, you can check if you're getting the national minimum wage on GOV.UK or speak to an adviser at your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you think you're not being paid properly for the hours you work, find out what to do if you're having problems getting paid.

1. Check if the 48-hour working time limit applies to you

Your employer can't make you work more than 48 hours a week on average. It doesn't matter what your contract says or if you don't have a written contract.

If you want to work more than 48 hours a week, you can sign an agreement to opt out of the maximum weekly working time limit. It's your decision - your employer can't make you opt out.

If you opt out of the working time regulations, you might have to work more than 48 hours a week on average. Find out what you can do if you want to cancel your opt out agreement.

You're not covered by the 48-hour limit if you're:

  • a lorry, coach or heavy goods vehicle driver
  • in the armed forces, emergency services or police
  • a domestic servant in a private household
  • airline staff like cabin crew or pilots
  • a worker on a ship
  • a senior manager or executive where your working time isn't measured and you're in control of your decisions

If you're not sure which maximum working hours apply to your job, you can get help from your union or contact a specialist employment adviser at Acas.

2. Check what counts towards your 48-hour limit

You should include any time you spend on work you've agreed to do for your employer.

You should leave out any time you've taken off work and rest breaks when no work is done. Find out what rest breaks you're entitled to.

If you travel for your job

If you travel as part of your job, for example as a sales rep or care worker, you should count time spent travelling between appointments as working time.

If you don't have a fixed place of work, for example if you provide care for people in their own homes, you should count the travel time between home and work as working time.

If you work at the same location each day, you can't count your normal travel time between home and work.

You can count time spent on job-related training as working time if your employer has agreed for you to do the training. It doesn't matter if your employer is paying for the training or not.

Your employer might be able to make you do job-related training outside your normal working hours if it's in your contract. This will count as working time.

You can't count training you've decided to do in your personal time as working time even if it's related to your job, for example evening classes.

Example

Sarah works part-time on weekdays in a shop. Her employer asks her to do a training course on a Saturday. The time she spends in training counts as working time, even though it's outside her normal working hours.

Working lunches and rest breaks

You should only count lunches in your working time if you were actually working, for example having lunch with a client.

You should leave out any lunch breaks where you don't have to do any work.

You should also leave out any lunch breaks that you choose to work through.

Working time doesn't include rest breaks, so you shouldn't count any time you spend on breaks during or between shifts. You can check what rest breaks you should get if you're not sure.

If you work overtime

When you're adding up your working hours, you should count any overtime you've agreed to do.

Working overtime means doing more than the normal working hours fixed in your contract. You only have to work overtime if your contract says so.

You shouldn't count any unpaid overtime you do without being asked, such as staying late to finish something off or work you've taken home.

If you work on call

You employer might ask you to work 'on call', also known as 'on standby', outside your usual working hours. You only have to work on call if it's in your contract.

If your employer asks you to stay at your workplace and you have to be available to work when they ask, all the time you're on call counts as working time.

If your employer says you have to stay very near your workplace, for example a 5-minute drive away, this could be working time.

Sleep counts as working time while you're on call at the workplace.

If you're staying at home or somewhere of your own choosing, and you can take part in leisure activities or sleep, you shouldn't count this as working time. Time you spend on call at home doesn't count as working time until you're actually doing work.

Your employer is allowed to set conditions while you're on call, like:

  • staying within a certain travel time or distance of your workplace
  • limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
  • being awake at certain times

The more restrictive those conditions are, the more likely your on call time is working time.

If you live at your place of work, it's likely that your on call time counts as working time. However, the law isn't clear and often people have to go to the employment tribunal to decide.

It can be difficult to work out if on call time counts as working time. If you can't reach an agreement with your employer, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you work from home

You should count any time spent working from home towards your working time, as long as you've agreed this with your employer.

For example, you may normally work at an office, but work from home occasionally. This is different from working on call.

If you work at night

You're classed as a night worker if you regularly work at least 3 hours at night.

What counts as 'night' might be in your contract. Your employer can set what hours count as night, but they have to include at least midnight to 5am.

If night isn't set in your contract, it's 11pm to 6am.

Maximum hours if you're a night worker

You shouldn't have to work more than an average of 8 hours in each 24-hour period, averaged out over 17 weeks. You can work more than 8 hours a day as long as the average over 17 weeks is no more than 8. Your employer can't ask you to opt out of this limit.

You might have to work more than an average of 8 hours a night in some jobs, like the emergency services. Check which jobs might have to work more at night on GOV.UK.

If you take time off work

When you're adding up your working time, leave out any days you've taken off work for:

  • paid annual leave
  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • adoption leave
  • time off sick
  • unpaid parental leave

3. Calculate your working hours

If you work the same hours each week, and haven't taken any time off in the last 17 weeks, add your overtime to your contractual hours. If the total is over 48, you're working more than the legal limit.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help working out your hours.

If you haven't taken any time off and your hours vary

To calculate your working hours when you haven't taken any time off, you should:

  1. add up the number of hours you've worked over 17 weeks, including overtime
  2. divide the number of hours worked by the number of weeks in the reference period - normally 17 weeks

Example

Samantha worked 40 hours a week, plus 12 hours of overtime a week for the first 10 weeks of the 17-week reference period. She didn't take any leave.

Step 1: Add up the number of hours worked

17 weeks of 40 hours
= 17 x 40
= 680

10 weeks of 12 hours overtime
= 10 x 12
= 120

680 + 120 = 800 hours worked

Step 2: Divide total hours worked by length of reference period

800 hours divided by 17 weeks = 47.1 hours per week

Samantha's average working hours are under the 48-hour maximum.

If you work at night

If you're a night worker, you can't be asked to work more than 8 hours a day on average.

To work out this average, add up your hours over 17 weeks, and divide by 102 days. This imagines each week has 6 days rather than 7, because you have a legal right to 1 day a week where you do no work.

Example

Ahmed works four 12-hour shifts each week, with 1 rest day each week.

Step 1: Add up the number of hours you worked

4 shifts of 12 hours work, every week for 17 weeks

4 x 12 = 48 hours

48 x 17 = 816 hours worked in 17 weeks

Step 2: Add up the number of days you could have worked, minus rest days

17 weeks x 7 days = 119 days in the reference period

1 rest day per week = 17 days

119 - 17 = 102 days you're allowed to work during the reference period

Step 3: Calculate your weekly average hours by dividing your hours worked by number of days

816 hours worked divided by 102 days allowed to work = 8 hours a day, which is within the working hours limit for night workers.

If you're not sure if your calculations are correct, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If your employer is making you work more than 48 hours

If you're being forced to work more than 48 hours a week, your employer might be breaching the terms of your contract. You could resign and claim constructive dismissal at an employment tribunal.

It's difficult to prove constructive dismissal and not many claims win. To be successful, you'd need to prove your employer seriously breached your contract and you resigned in response to that.

Before you resign, you should find out how to make a constructive dismissal claim and check how much you could get with an adviser at your local Citizens Advice.

If you don't want to take legal action but think your employer is breaking the rules, you can also report a problem with working hours on GOV.UK.

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