As most people know, the stress caused by working very long hours can have a significant impact on both physical and mental health.

To help protect employees from the effects of working long hours, the Working Time Regulations 1998 state that employers must allow 11 hours of uninterrupted rest a day for employees who are over the age of 18.

This position has been strengthened following the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal decision in the case of Edwards v Encirc Ltd, which confirmed that employers must also take into account time spent by employees attending meetings as a trade union or health and safety representative when calculating how many hours their employees can work.

The ruling will be especially relevant for night shift workers. In this particular case, two Union representatives attended meetings during the day leaving only a 6 or 9 hour break until the start of their night shift. Even though their employer allowed them to start their shift later than usual, they still did not get an 11 hour break before they had to start work. The claimants argued that attending these meetings should count as “working time” under the Working Time Regulations, and the Appeal Tribunal agreed.

Anyone regularly working more than 48 hours per week, who is concerned that they are working too many hours, or who feels they are not getting long enough breaks, should seek legal advice. Beecham Peacock can advise on any aspect of employment law. For further information call us on 0191 232 3048 or email

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