Maximum weekly working hours

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Calculating your working hours

Average working hours are calculated over a ‘reference’ period, normally 17 weeks.

This means you can work more than 48 hours one week, as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than 48 hours a week.

Your working hours can’t be averaged out if you’re under 18. You can’t work more than 40 hours in any one week.


Some jobs have different reference periods, eg:

  • trainee doctors have a 26-week reference period
  • the offshore oil and gas sector has a 52-week reference period

What counts as work

A working week includes:

  • job-related training
  • time spent travelling if you travel as part of your job, eg sales rep
  • working lunches, eg business lunches
  • time spent working abroad
  • paid overtime
  • unpaid overtime you’re asked to do
  • time spent on call at the workplace
  • any time that is treated 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 call away from the workplace
  • breaks when no work is done, eg lunch breaks
  • travelling outside of normal working hours
  • unpaid overtime you’ve volunteered for, eg staying late to finish something off
  • paid or unpaid holiday
  • travel to and from work (if you have a fixed place of work)

You have more than one job

Your combined working hours shouldn’t be more than 48 hours a week on average.

If you work more than 48 hours on average, you can either: