Working time - international snapshot

A high level outline of the working time obligations that apply across a range of jurisdictions.

France

Working time is highly regulated and a very complex area of law. For normal full time employees, the legal working time is 35 hours per week and any hour worked above this should be remunerated as overtime, at an increased rate. Some categories of executives (ie managers) can be subject to exceptions, but these are strictly regulated and, if not managed correctly, can give rise to an important financial liability for employers. Advice should therefore always be taken when addressing a working time issue and working time arrangements should be clearly agreed with employees upon hiring.

Further details are available here.

Germany

The maximum daily amount of working time must not exceed eight or respectively ten hours provided that over a period of six months or 24 weeks, an average of eight hours per business day (Monday until Saturday) is observed. Night work for both men and women is permitted provided that a number of health and safety considerations are taken into account. Workers must have a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours after the end of their daily working time. A worker must not work for more than six hours without a break. An individual who works between six and nine hours is entitled to a minimum rest break of 30 minutes. A 45 minute rest break must be given if an employee works for more than nine hours. Generally, employees are not permitted to work on Sundays and public holidays. There are, however, exemptions for certain kinds of work.

Working time records must be kept for two years. If an employer, senior executive or director breaches its obligations, the supervising authorities can impose fines up to €15,000 on them. The Working Time Act is compulsory for all employment relationships in Germany, regardless of the nationality of employer or worker. Hence, there is no option to exclude the application of the working time legislation by agreement. In certain instances deviations on the basis of collective bargaining or works agreements are allowed.

Further details are available here.

Italy

Working time is defined as any period in which the employee is at work, at the disposition of the employer and performing his/her tasks or functions. The maximum working time in a day is 13 hours, although national collective bargaining agreements (NCBA) can set shorter limits. The normal working week is 40 hours although NCBA can set a shorter week. The average length of working time must not, in any case, exceed 48 hours for any period of seven days, including overtime. Night workers’ working time must not exceed an average of eight hours in a 24 hour period, although NCBA may provide for a longer reference period. Workers must have a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hour working period. Overtime starts after 40 hours a week and cannot exceed 250 hours annually in the absence of different limits set by NCBA.

Sanctions for breach of the law fall into two categories: administrative fines and penalty (only for more serious breaches). Executives are not subject to any limitations in relation to their working time.

Further details are available here.

Netherlands

No minimum limits apply to worker’s working time. The maximum number of hours which a worker can work per shift is 12, and the maximum number per week is 60. No more than an average of 48 hours per week may be worked within a period of 16 weeks, and, no more than an average of 55 hours per week may be worked within a period of four weeks. A collective scheme may agree otherwise on this average. The maximum length of night work is 10 hours. No more than an average of 40 hours may be worked per week over a period of 16 weeks if night work was performed for at least 16 times during this period. A night worker has the right to transfer to suitable day work.

In each 24 hour period workers must have daily rest period of 11 hours. For every seven days there must be a weekly rest period of 36 hours. If a worker works for longer than 5.5 hours he/she must have a break of at least 30 minutes. If work is carried out for more than ten hours, the break must be at least 45 minutes. Breaks can be divided in periods of at least 15 minutes. Sunday is basically not a working day unless the worker has expressly agreed to work Sundays and the nature of the work makes it necessary to do so.

Examples of excluded employees are people who, on an annual basis, earn at least three times the minimum wage (in total € 61,982.50 gross per year, as per July 2018), unless the employees work on night duty, carry out high risk work or if they have a non-supervisory position in the mining industry. Certain categories of work are also excluded (in part or in full) from the scope of the Act, the most important of which being voluntary workers, members of the clergy, resident domestic personnel, professional sports persons, scientific researchers and medical or dental specialists.

Further details are available here.

PRC

Standard working time is eight hours per day and 40 hours per week. There is no minimum limit applying to an employee’s working time, while the maximum overtime permitted by law is 36 hours per month. Workers are entitled to at least one rest day per week.

Company must pay for overtime, the rates of which vary between among 150%, 200% to and 300% of regular hourly rates depending on when the overtime is worked ie, work on working days, weekends or public holidays.

If a company is unable to implement the standard working time, the company may apply for approvals for implementing irregular/comprehensive working time schemes. Overtime pay rules are slightly different under local rules in different cities. But normally overtime work on working days and weekends under these schemes are not subject to overtime pay.

If the company violates the rules on working time and overtime pay, local labour authorities may issue a correction order and impose a fine. Employees may bring claims against the company before a labour arbitration tribunal or a court and claim for compensation.

Further details are available here.

Spain

As a general rule, there is a maximum working day of nine hours and a maximum working week of 40 hours. This is averaged on an annual basis as working time may be spread irregularly through the year provided that the minimum weekly rest (36 hours) and daily rest (12 hours) periods are maintained. Night and shift work is allowed in Spain, but their regulation is more restrictive (e.g. they cannot work overtime as a general rule) and in general night work/shift work must be remunerated separately, in accordance with the relevant CBA.

If overtime is allowed by the applicable CBA, employees must be paid for the overtime worked or be compensated with additional paid time off (when compensated with additional paid time off, the general 80 hours’ annual limit may be exceeded). Each extra hour must be compensated for by at least one hour off (but it could be more). It is mandatory for companies to record overtime hours as well as the work time of all part time employees and to provide this information to the employees and workers legal representatives. Such registration could be required by the Labour Inspection.

Further details are available here.

UK

The working time of workers is regulated by law. The law sets out maximum work periods, rest periods and holiday. Specific provision is made for night workers and shift workers. Key limits are:

  • a maximum 48 hours in each seven days (although an individual can opt out of this limit)
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hour working period
  • an uninterrupted weekly rest period of not less than 24 hours in each seven day period
  • a worker working more than six hours must have a rest break of at least 20 minutes uninterrupted
  • 5.6 weeks' paid annual leave in any leave year.

Further details are available here.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.