Hours, Holidays and Rest Breaks

The Working Time Regulations cover a basic set of rights for the five main areas of your working life:

  • The maximum number of hours you can be asked to work in a week.
  • How many hours you can work at a time.
  • How much rest you are entitled to.
  • Special protection for people who work at night.
  • How much paid annual leave or holiday you can have.

You are covered by the regulations if you have a contract of employment or you are a worker who is not self-employed. If you are a worker or employee but you work in the air, rail, road, or sea transport industry then you may not be covered by these rules.

Maximum working hours: 48-hours a week

It is illegal for your employer to force you to work more than 48 hours a week on average. This may particularly affect you if you decide to work full-time over the summer holidays or you are a part-time student.

  • The number of hours you work per week is usually averaged over a 17 week period, although there can be certain exceptions to this.
  • If you would like to work for longer than 48 hours a week, then you must sign an ‘opt out’ form stating this.
  • This applies even if you are working for more than one employer.

Night Workers

If you regularly work for more than three hours between 11.00pm and 6.00am then you are classed as a night worker.


  • As a night worker you should not be asked to work for more than an average of eight hours in every 24-hour period.
  • The average number of hours you have worked is usually averaged over 17 weeks, although there can be certain exceptions.
  • If you work as a night worker in a job that involves special hazards, heavy physical work or mental strain, then the limit of eight hours a day is an actual limit per day it is not averaged over a period of time.
  • If you are a night worker, your employer is legally bound to offer you a free health assessment before you start your job.
  • As a night worker, your employer will also need to make regular checks on your health.

Rest Breaks

These are the periods of rest you are entitled to. Your employer does not have to pay you during your rest breaks, and they will not be included in calculating how many hours you have worked for National Minimum Wage purposes. If you are aged over 18 you are entitled to the following:

  • If you work more than six hours a day, you are entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes.
  • You are entitled to a rest period of at least 11 hours in every 24 hours.
  • You are entitled to at least two rest days per fortnight.

There are certain variations in some special circumstances, but the general principle is that every worker has a right to an average of 90 hours a week rest.

Paid Annual Leave

All full-time workers are entitled to at least 5.6 weeks paid holiday (or ‘annual leave’) per year. This is 28 days for someone working five days a week, although will be pro rata if you work less. You begin to qualify for annual leave from your first day of work, however there are several considerations you should make when taking leave:

  • You do not have the right to choose which days leave you can take.
  • Your employer can ask you to take bank holidays as part of your leave entitlement.
  • These are minimums set by the law, so you may receive more than this.

There is more detailed information about holiday entitlement on the UK Government website.

What can the AberSU Advice Service do to help?

The AberSU Advice Service is independent from the University and provides a free, confidential, and impartial service to all Aberystwyth University students. 

The Advice Service can assist you in a range of ways, including:

  • Explain your rights in relation to employment legislation and signpost where appropriate to external advice services.
  • Review any draft statements that you prepare and offer suggestions.
  • Accompany you where appropriate to any meetings to provide support and representation.
  • Help you to collate appropriate evidence to support your case.

Contact an Advisor

Useful links


First Produced: September 2020

Reviewed: September 2023