Working time and holiday rights are set by statute. This has become a complex area of law, but the basics are set out below. Note that special rules can apply to certain sectors or types of work.

Working time

Workers are entitled to a rest break after six hours of work.

Workers must be given a rest period of 24 hours every seven days.

Night workers and workers under 18 enjoy additional protection.

A worker cannot be required to work more than an average of 48 hours per week unless they have signed an opt out agreement.


All employees and workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days' paid holiday per year (for a full-time worker). This includes public holidays. Holiday entitlement can be pro rated for part-time workers.

Holiday pay has become a complex issue, but the basic principle is that it should be made up of all the "normal" elements of pay. This could include commission or bonus in certain cases.

On termination of employment, workers must be paid for unused holiday.

Flexible working

You can do a lot to set the working culture in your business and the degree of flexibility that is allowed in terms of flexible hours, working from home etc.

You should set down some clear policies or rules in areas such as homeworking in order to avoid misunderstandings (and abuse).

There is also a legal framework to flexibility in that all employees with 26 weeks' service have the right to request a flexible working arrangement e.g. to change their hours or days of work, or to work from home on a regular or permanent basis. You do not have to grant these requests, but the law limits the grounds on which you can refuse them and prescribes a process for considering them.

Wedlake Bell’s Key Knowledge Guide to Employment Law for New Businesses 6


Employees are entitled to a number of statutory family rights. These include:

 maternity leave and maternity pay  two weeks' paternity leave  adoption leave and adoption pay  the right to share maternity leave and pay through "shared parental leave"

 unpaid parental leave (after one year's employment).

Some employers choose to "top-up" the statutory pay which employees receive whilst they are taking family leave.

Aside from pay, an employee's terms and conditions must remain the same during their period of leave. They continue to accrue holiday in the usual way and will continue to receive any benefits that they are entitled to.

When they return to work, they may be entitled to return to the same job and to benefit from any improvements which they would have received if they had been at work during the leave period (e.g. a pay rise).

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