When you register with an umbrella company, you become an employee of that company and are entitled to the same rights as any other UK-based employee. Continue reading as we discuss the Working Time Regulations and whether you should opt-in or out of the 48-hour working week.
What are the Working Time Regulations?
The Working Time Regulations (1998) were introduced to support the health and safety of workers by setting maximum requirements for the number of hours that they can work, paid time off and rest periods.
The 48-hour working week
The regulations state it is illegal for you to work any time over a total of 48 hours each week. You can agree to exceed this limit if you want to, but you cannot be mandated to work more than 48 hours per week.
Average working hours are calculated over a ‘reference’ period, which is usually 17 weeks. This means you can work more than 48 hours one, as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than 48 hours a week.
Please be aware, some jobs have different reference periods, e.g. a trainee doctor has a 26-week reference period, and the offshore oil and gas sector has a 52-week reference period.
Are there exceptions to the rules?
You may be required to work more than 48 hours a week on average if you work in a job where the following applies:
- Where 24-hour staffing is required
- In security and surveillance
- In the emergency services, police or armed forces
- As a seafarer, sea-fisherman or worker on vessels on inland waterways
- As a domestic servant in a private household
- Where working time is not measured, and you’re in control, e.g. you’re a managing executive with control over your decisions
For more information about the 48-hour working week restrictions, please visit the government’s website.
What constitutes work?
As a contractor or freelancer, a working week may vary drastically depending on the role and client. To calculate the number of hours that you work each week, you should take into consideration the following points:
- Time spent working abroad as part of your role
- Training related to your role
- Paid overtime
- Unpaid overtime you’ve been asked to do
- Time spent travelling if you travel as part of your job, e.g. sales rep
- Working lunches, e.g. business lunches
- Time spent on call at the workplace
- Any time that is seen as ‘working time’ under a contract
- Travel between home and work at the start and end of the working day (if you don’t have a fixed place of work)
What doesn’t count as work?
A working week doesn’t include:
- Time you spend on a call away from the workplace
- Travelling outside of regular working hours
- Breaks when you are not required to work, e.g. lunch breaks
- Paid or unpaid holiday
- Unpaid overtime you’ve volunteered to do, e.g. staying late to finish something off
- Travel to and from work if you have a fixed place of work
I have more than one job – what should I do?
As a contractor working through an umbrella company, you may be working on different assignments for different clients. Even though you are working for other clients, the working time regulations still apply, and the total of your combined working hours must not be on average higher than 48 hours every week.
If you calculate that your combined hours equate to more than 48 hours, then you can do one of the following:
- Reduce your hours to fit within 48 hours
- Sign the opt-out agreement
How to opt-out of the 48-hour working week
It is entirely your decision if you would like to work more than an average of 48 hours a week. If you would like to opt-out, you can do this by signing a written agreement from your employer (for example, your umbrella company), known as the opt-out agreement. The length of time you opt-out for is up to you. It can be for a certain period, or you may want to opt-out indefinitely.
How do I cancel an opt-out agreement?
You can choose to cancel an opt-out agreement at any time. The notice period you are required to give your employer will depend on what’s written in your contract, but it can never be more than three months or less than seven days.
Are you interested in registering with a compliant, FCSA accredited umbrella company?
Alternatively, you can request a call for a later date, and one of our sales consultants will be in touch.
We look forward to speaking with you!