Working Time Directive

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Directive 2003/88/EC
European Union directive
Title Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time
Made by European Parliament & Council of the EU
Made under Art. 137(2)
Journal reference L 299, 2003-11-18, p. 9
Date made 2003-11-04
Preparative texts
EESC opinion C 61, 2003-03-14, p. 123
EP opinion 2002-12-17
Current legislation

The Working Time Directive, 2003/88/EC, is a Directive of the European Union. It gives EU workers the right to a minimum number of holidays each year, rest breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; a day off after a week's work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week.[1] It was issued as an update on earlier versions from 22 June 2000 and 23 November 1993.[2] Since excessive working time is cited as a major cause of stress, depression and illness, the stated purpose of the Directive is to protect people's health and safety.


Like all European Union directives, this is an instrument which requires member states to enact its provisions in national legislation. Although the directive applies to all member states, in the United Kingdom, it is possible to opt out of the 48 hour working week and work longer hours.[3] However, it is not possible to opt out of the other requirements.

After the 1993 Council Negotiations, when the Directive was agreed to after an 11-1 vote, UK Employment Secretary David Hunt said "It is a flagrant abuse of Community rules. It has been brought forward as such simply to allow majority voting - a ploy to smuggle through part of the Social Chapter by the back door. The UK strongly opposes any attempt to tell people that they can no longer work the hours they want."[4]


Aims and definitions

Part 1 purpose as health and safety Part 2 definitions; night time is between 12am (midnight) and 5am and not less than seven hours Part 14 more specific EU provisions take precedence Part 15 minimum standards directive Part 16 maximum reference period is 14 days for art 5; 4 months for art 6; and determined by collective agreement for art 8; Part 23 the Directive cannot be a reason to reduce protection Part 24 report to Commission about the implementation of the WTD Parts 25-26 review of derogations for fishing boats and passenger carriers


  • art 3 - there must a daily rest of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.
  • art 4 - a rest period for every six hours, set by legislation or collective agreement.
  • art 5 - weekly rest of 24 hours uninterrupted, on top of the daily rest in art 3, but derogation is justifiable for technical, organisational or work reasons.

Working week

  • art 6 - (a) member states must ensure weekly working time is limited by law, or collective agreement (b) average working time should not exceed 48 hours for each 7 day period.
  • art 17 - derogations allowed under arts 3-6, 8 and 16 for (1) ‘managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision making powers’, family workers and religious leaders (2) …. (5) doctors’ provisions.
  • art 18 - derogations by collective agreement.
  • art 19 - limit to derogation for reference period.
  • art 20 - mobile and offshore workers.
  • art 21- workers on fishing vessels.
  • art 22 - ‘miscellaneous’ (1) individual opt out for art 6 where (a) the worker agrees (b) no detriment for not agreeing (c) records kept up to date (d) authorities kept informed (e) information given (2) three week transitional provision (3) inform Commission.


  • art 7 annual leave of at least four weeks (i.e. 20 days on a full-time basis) and no payment in lieu except where employment is terminated

Night work

  • art 8 - (a) eight hours night work in any 24-hour period on average (b) eight hours where hazardous or strenuous work.
  • art 9 - free health assessments for night workers.
  • art 10 - night workers who risk health can be given guarantees (?).
  • art 11 - night workers to be notified to competent authorities ‘if they so request’.
  • art 12 - night and shift workers should have health protected.
  • art 13 - ‘an employer who intends to organise work according to a certain pattern takes account of the general principle of adapting work to the worker, with a view, in particular, to alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate’.

Case law

The Working Time Directive has also been clarified and interpreted through a number of rulings in the European Court of Justice. The most notable of these have been the "SIMAP" and "Jaeger" judgments (Sindicato de Médicos de Asistencia Pública v Conselleria de Sanidad y Consumo de la Generalidad Valenciana, 2000 and Landeshauptstadt Kiel v Jaeger, 2003). The SIMAP judgment defined all time when the worker was required to be present on site as actual working hours, for the purposes of work and rest calculations. The Jaeger judgment confirmed that this was the case even if workers could sleep when their services were not required.

See also


  1. ClearSky Business - Working hours and rest breaks
  2. formerly Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993
  3. UK Government - Opting out of the 48 hour week
  4. The Scotsman, “Britain plans court challenge over limit on working week”, 2 June 1993.

External links

Documents from the European Council, Commission, and Parliament
Judgments from the European Court of Justice
Non-governmental organization documents
With regard to the United Kingdom