A time to work and a time to rest

Organising your working time

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The Organisation of Working time Act 1997 sets out the rules and regulations which apply to time at work.

The average working week for most employees must not exceed 48 hours. It sets out various ways to calculate the average.

Remember it is an average. Some weeks may exceed 48 hours, provided other weeks are low enough to reduce the average to 48.

The average for most employees is calculated over four months. For some groups listed in the act the average is calculated over six months or twelve months.

Annual leave, sick leave or maternity,adoptive, or paternal leave are not included.

Take a break

For most employees you are entitled to a break of fifteen minutes after working for a period of four and a half hours. If your work period increases to six hours or more, then you become entitled to a break of half an hour, (This includes the 15 minute break taken earlier).

Shop workers are entitled to a one hour break where they work for more than six hours including 11.30am-2.30-pm, which must be taken within those hours.

Other rules apply to some other categories of worker.

Who is excluded?

Gardai, Defence forces, employees who control their own working hours or family members working in private homes or farms.

Some civil servants are exempt. Different regulations apply to trainee doctors .

What about transport workers?

For more on transport workers read  The RSA Guide to the Road Transport Working Time Directive Download here

The 2000 Working Time Directive (2000/34/EC) amended the 1993 Working Time Directive to cover most workers in the sectors which had been excluded from that earlier Directive.

With regard to the Transport sector, the provisions of the amending 2000 Directive were transposed into Irish law by  S.I. No. 817 of 2004 ā€“ the Organisation of Working Time (Inclusion of Transport Activities) Regulations 2004. These Regulations transposed the 2000 Directive in relation to transport workers, with some exceptions, namely those workers performing mobile road transport activities as provided for in Directive 2002/15/EC (i.e. workers subject to tachograph rules), and mobile staff in civil aviation as defined in the Annex to Council Directive 2000/79/EC of 27 November 2000. The effect of the transposition of those provisions of Directive 2000/34/EC relating to the transport sector was to apply the maximum average working week of 48 hours to mobile and non-mobile transport workers covered by that Directive. S.I. No. 817 of 2004 revoked the earlier 1998 Regulations (i.e. the Organisation of Working Time (Exemption of Transport Activities) Regulations, 1998 ā€“ S.I. No. 20 of 1998) which had exempted the transport sector from the rest provisions and weekly working hours provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act. However, the exemptions in relation to the rest provisions continued to apply in S.I. No. 817 of 2004, subject to compensatory rest.


 What is a night worker?

Night time is considered the period between 12AM and 7AM. If at least 3-hours of your scheduled shift occurs during night time and 50% of your scheduled time each year, then you are a night worker.

The amount of hours a night worker can work is restricted

Night workers cannot work more than 48 hours per week, averaged over a 2-month period ā€“ instead of the standard 4-month period. If the job involves special hazards, such as mental or physical strain, this reduces the working hours to not more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period.



What about Sunday working?

Check your contract of employment first to see what is mentioned there.

If it is not dealt with there your employer has three choices;

  • a reasonable allowance

  • a reasonable increase in pay

  • paid time off work which would be considered as fair in the circumstances

If you are in the retail trade this should be of interest to you.

  Code of Practice on Sunday Working in the Retail Trade, Download here


What about overtime?

Employers are not obliged to pay overtime, except where special regulations apply. However the practice of paying overtime has evolved, and is very much a part of workplace expectations.

Check your contract of employment for mention of overtime and rates of pay.


Record keeping

Your employer is obliged under the Organisation of Working Time (Records) (Prescribed Form and Exemptions) Regulations 2001 to keep detailed records of the hours which you have worked. This includes start and finish times, hours worked each day and each week and leave granted.


Useful downloads


  Guide to the Organisation of Working time Act, Download here

  Organisation of Working Time Act, Explanatory Booklet, Download here

  Code of Practice on Compensatory Rest Periods, Download here

  The OTW1 Form, Download here


Where can I get more information on the law affecting working hours in Ireland?

Click on the orange Yes! Tell Me More button below  and we will contact you at a time that suits.


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