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Working Hours & Breaks

The maximum number of hours that an employee should work in an average working week is 48 hours. This working week average should be calculated over a four-month period. There are however some exceptions to this average period.

Averaging may be balanced out over a 4, 6 or 12 month period depending on the circumstances. The 48-hour net maximum working week can be averaged according to the following rules:

  • for employees generally - 4 months
  • for employees where work is subject to seasonality, a foreseeable surge in activity, or where employees are directly involved in ensuring continuity of service or production - 6 months
  • for all employees who enter into a collective agreement with their employers which is approved by the Labour Court - 12 months.


Employees are entitled to;

  • A daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24 hour period
  • A weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours per seven days, following a daily rest period
  • A 15-minute break where more than 4½ hours have been worked
  • A 30-minute break where more than 6 hours have been worked, which may include the first break

Payment for breaks is not a statutory entitlement.

Night Work

The Organisation of Working Time Act defines "Night Time" as the period between midnight and 7.00 a.m. next morning.

It defines a "Night Worker" as an employee -
(a) who normally works at least 3 hours of his or her daily working time during night time,
(b) the number of hours worked by whom during night time, in each year, equals or exceeds 50 per cent of the total number of hours worked by him or her during that year.

For night workers generally, the maximum night working time is 48 hours per week averaged over a 2 month period or a longer period specified in a collective agreement which must be approved by the Labour Court.

For night workers whose work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, there is an absolute limit of 8 hours in a 24 hour period during which they perform night work. 

Banded Hours

Banded Hours provisions (effective 4th March 2019)

The Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 2018 introduces a new right for employees whose contract of employment, or statement of terms of employment, does not reflect the reality of the hours they habitually work.

How will the Banded Hours provision work?

An employee may request, in writing, to be placed in the relevant band of hours. The employer has four weeks to consider the request.

An employee who believes their contract, or 5 day statement, does not reflect the hours they have consistently worked over the previous 12 months of service with their employer may request to be placed by that employer in a band of hours that better reflects the hours they have worked regularly).

In what situations can an employer say no to placing an employee on a band of hours?

a) the facts do not support the employee’s claim,
b) significant adverse changes have impacted on the business (e.g. loss of an important contract),
c) emergency circumstances (e.g. business has had to close due to flooding), or
d) where the hours worked by the employee were due to a genuinely temporary situation (e.g. cover for another employee on maternity leave).
Where the request is disputed or refused, the employee can refer a complaint to the WRC.

If the complaint is upheld, the employer will be obliged to place the employee on the appropriate band of hours.

The new provision does not oblige an employer to offer hours of work in a week where the employee was not expected to work or when the business is not open.

Exemption for collective agreements

The section will not apply to an employer who has entered into a banded hour arrangement through an agreement by collective bargaining with their employees e.g. in the retail sector where banded hours arrangements have been agreed between the employer and employees.

The new provisions will not interfere with these arrangements or with any such agreements that are collectively bargained in the future.

The bands of hours set out in the 2018 Act are:

A3 hours or moreLess than 6 hours
B6 hours or moreLess than 11 hours
C11 hours or moreLess than 16 hours
D16 hours or moreLess than 21 hours
E21 hours or moreLess than 26 hours
F26 hours or moreLess than 31 hours
G31 hours or moreLess than 36 hours
H36 hours or more

You may view and/or download the legislation here - Organisation of Working Time Act 1997

Click here to download the Form OWT1

You may also wish to click on the following link in our Codes of Practice section relating to the Code of Practice on Compensatory Rest Periods

Other relevant legislation includes - S.I. No. 57/1998 - Organisation of Working Time (Breaks At Work For Shop Employees) Regulations, 1998