Working Time Regulations

In addition to the rights outlined around qualifying periods, a number of other rights and responsibilities exist. These relate to rest breaks, the number of hours a worker can be required to work and paid leave.  

Working Time Regulations — rest breaks

  • Under the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 a worker has the right to a break of 20 minutes if required to work continuously for more than six hours. 
  • The break should be taken during the six-hour period; not at the beginning or end of it.
  • Young workers are entitled to a 30-minute break for each 4.5 hours worked.
  • The breaks do not have to be paid unless the contract of employment provides for this. 
  • A worker is entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours between each working day and one uninterrupted weekly rest period of not less than 24 hours in each seven-day period. 
  • The weekly rest period can be taken as either two periods of at least 24 hours in each 14-day period or one uninterrupted period of no less than 48 hours in each 14-day period.
  • Young workers are entitled to 12 hours rest between each working day.


The working time regulations also provide rights to:

  • a limit of an average 48 hours a week on the number of hours a worker can be required to work, though individuals may choose to work longer;
  • 5.6 weeks’ paid leave a year; and
  • a limit on the normal working hours of night workers to an average eight hours in any 24-hour period, and an entitlement for night workers to receive regular health assessment.


The regulations apply to all workers, including the majority of agency workers and freelancers.  There are additional rules for young workers. 

Last updated: 25 October 2023