Need to take a break but not sure of your rights as a freelancer? Then read on…

   

We all know that freelancers aren’t like your normal employees – we’re a funny old bunch. But just like any employee we have specific rights laid out under the Working Time Directive; this legislation offers guidance on working hours, rest breaks and holiday entitlements.

The Working Time Regulations entitle all Workers and Employees to:

* A minimum Daily Rest Break of 11 hours between finishing your job and starting the next day. (Workers aged between 15-18 are entitled to a minimum daily rest break of 12 hours).

* A Weekly Rest Day of 24 hours within each seven day period (Young Workers aged 15-18 are entitled to 48 hours); or a Fortnightly Rest Period of 48 consecutive hours within each 14 day period.

* A break of 20 minutes if your daily working day is more than 6 hours long (or 30 minutes if you are aged 15-18 years and you work more than 4.5 hours at a stretch).

* You are entitled to ‘equivalent compensatory rest’ if any of the above rest breaks are not given.

Working Hours Time Limits:

Legislation states that you cannot work for more than 48 hours per week, which is normally measured over a 17 week reference period. However, this ‘17 week period’ can be amended in certain circumstances (via a collective agreement or if there are special circumstances).

If you are on a contract for a fixed period (Fixed Term PAYE or worker), that is under the 17 or 26 week reference period (whichever your employer is using), your ‘reference’ period for calculating your working hours will be the actual length of your contract (see below).

However, it is possible to voluntarily opt out of the 48-hour limit. But this must be voluntary and there should not be any negative consequences as a result of refusing to opt out.

The number of hours you work per week can be averaged by your employer over the 17/26 week period (or your contract length), rather than measured in one week, and the 28 days holiday you are legally entitled to (see below) cannot be used to reduce your average number of hours worked. However with the Daily and Weekly Rest breaks above included, the maximum in any week you should work is 78 hours.

Paid Holidays Under the Working Time Directive Legislation:

The Working Time Regulations also entitle Workers and Employees to a legal minimum of 28 days paid leave each year.  Your Employer has no legal obligation to insist you take your statutory holiday entitlement, and they can refuse a holiday request – but there must be a time at which you are able to take it.

Your Employer may restrict you taking leave through the following – by your employment contract, via custom or practice or by negotiations with a Trade Union or Employee Representative.  They can restrict your leave because: they shut down at certain times; they can specify when you may or may not take your leave; they may cap the amount of leave that you can take at any one time.  If such arrangements don’t already exist then your Employer must give you notice to require you to take your leave – of twice the length of the leave period they require you to take, e.g. they need to give you 2 weeks notice to require you to take 1 weeks leave.

Bank holidays may be included in the 28-day holiday entitlement, and there is no statutory right to take bank holidays off work.

You can find more information on rest breaks and holidays at the Direct Gov website: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/WorkingHoursAndTimeoff/inex.htm

By Lesley Furber


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