Working Time Directive 2003

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Directive 2003/88/EC
European Union directive
Title Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time
Made by European Parliament & Council of the EU
Made under Art. 137(2)
Journal reference L 299, 2003-11-18, p. 9
Date made 2003-11-04
Preparative texts
EESC opinion C 61, 2003-03-14, p. 123
EP opinion 2002-12-17
Current legislation

The Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC, is a Directive of the European Union. It gives EU workers the right to at least 4 weeks (20 days) in paid holidays each year, rest breaks, and rest of at least 11 hours in any 24 hours; restricts excessive night work; a day off after a week's work; and provides for a right to work no more than 48 hours per week. It was issued as an update on earlier versions from 22 June 2000 and 23 November 1993.[1] Since excessive working time is cited as a major cause of stress, depression and illness, the purpose of the directive is to protect people's health and safety.


Like all European Union directives, this is an instrument which requires member states to enact its provisions in national legislation. The directive applies to all member states. It is possible to opt out of the '48-hour working week',[2] but not the other requirements.

After the 1993 Council Negotiations, when the Directive was agreed to after an 11–1 vote, UK Employment Secretary David Hunt said "It is a flagrant abuse of Community rules. It has been brought forward as such simply to allow majority voting – a ploy to smuggle through part of the Social Chapter by the back door. The UK strongly opposes any attempt to tell people that they can no longer work the hours they want."[3]


Aims and definitions

  • Part 1 – purpose as health and safety
  • Part 2 – definitions; night time is between midnight and 5 am and not less than seven hours
  • Part 14 – more specific EU provisions take precedence
  • Part 15 – minimum standards directive
  • Part 16 – maximum reference period is fourteen days for article 5; four months for article 6; and determined by collective agreement for article 8;
  • Part 23 – the directive cannot be a reason to reduce protection
  • Part 24 – reporting to the EU Commission on the implementation of the WTD
  • Parts 25–26 – review of derogations for fishing boats and passenger carriers


  • Article 3 – there must be a daily rest of eleven consecutive hours per 24-hour period.
  • Article 4 – a rest period for every six hours, set by legislation or collective agreement.
  • Article 5 – weekly rest of 24 hours uninterrupted, on top of the daily rest in article 3, but derogation is justifiable for technical, organisational or work reasons.

Working week

  • Article 6
    1. member states must ensure weekly working time is limited by law, or collective agreement
    2. average working time should not exceed 48 hours for each 7-day period.
  • Article 17 – derogations allowed under arts 3–6, 8 and 16 for (1) ‘managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision making powers’, family workers and religious leaders (2) …. (5) doctors’ provisions.
  • Article 18 – derogations by collective agreement.
  • Article 19 – limit to derogation for reference period.
  • Article 20 – mobile and offshore workers.
  • Article 21 – workers on fishing vessels.
  • Article 22 – ‘miscellaneous’
    1. individual opt out for article 6 where:
      1. the worker agrees
      2. no detriment for not agreeing
      3. records kept up to date
      4. authorities kept informed
      5. information given
    2. three week transitional provision
    3. inform EU Commission.

  • Article 7 – annual leave of at least four weeks (i.e. 20 days on a full-time basis). The term "week" is defined by article 5, which refers to "weekly" as meaning a "seven-day period".[4] If an employee's job is terminated, he or she is entitled to payment in lieu for holidays that were not taken.

Night work

  • Article 8
    1. eight hours night work in any 24-hour period on average
    2. eight hours where hazardous or strenuous work.
  • Article 9 – free health assessments for night workers.
  • Article 10 – night workers who risk health can be given guarantees.
  • Article 11 – night workers to be notified to competent authorities "if they so request".
  • Article 12 – night and shift workers should have health protected.
  • Article 13 – "an employer who intends to organise work according to a certain pattern takes account of the general principle of adapting work to the worker, with a view, in particular, to alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate".

Case law

The Working Time Directive has also been clarified and interpreted through a number of rulings in the European Court of Justice. The most notable of these have been the "SIMAP" and "Jaeger" judgments (Sindicato de Médicos de Asistencia Pública v Conselleria de Sanidad y Consumo de la Generalidad Valenciana, 2000 and Landeshauptstadt Kiel v Jaeger, 2003).

The SIMAP judgment defined all time when the worker was required to be present on site as actual working hours, for the purposes of work and rest calculations. The Jaeger judgment confirmed that this was the case even if workers could sleep when their services were not required.

See also


  1. ^ formerly Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993
  2. ^ UK Government – Opting out of the 48 hour week
  3. ^ The Scotsman, "Britain plans court challenge over limit on working week", 2 June 1993.
  4. ^ See further Russell v Transocean International Resources Ltd [2011] UKSC 57, [19]

External links

Documents from the European Council, Commission, and Parliament
  • Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time
  • Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time – repealed by Directive 2003/88/EC, as follows
  • Prelex: adoption procedure of Directive 2003/88/EC
  • National implementing measures of Directive 2003/88/EC
  • Report from the Commission on the operation of the provisions of Directive 2003/88/EC
  • Commission Opinion — Extension of transitional arrangements for the working time of doctors in training in the United Kingdom
  • Commission Opinion — Extension of transitional arrangements for the working time of doctors in training in Hungary
  • Prelex: Adoption procedure file for the Commission's proposal for revision of Working Time Directive, COM(2004) 607. Legal Observatory: The European Parliament's procedure file for the proposal.
Judgments from the European Court of Justice
  • Judgment of the Court of 12 November 1996. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland v Council of the European Union. Council Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time – Action for annulment. Case C-84/94.
  • Judgment of the Court of 3 October 2000. Sindicato de Médicos de Asistencia Pública (SiMAP) v. Conselleria de Sanidad y Consumo de la Generalidad Valenciana
  • Judgment of the Court of 9 September 2003. Landeshauptstadt Kiel v Norbert Jaeger
Non-governmental organisation documents
  • European Public Health Alliance: "Impact on health workforce of the working time directive"
With regard to the United Kingdom
  • Department of Trade and Industry: Working Time Regulations
  • Health & Safety Executive: The Working Time Regulations
  • Department of Health: European Working Time Directive
  • Guardian (2006-11-06): Q&A: the working time directive
  • BBC News (2002-04-29): Q&A: Working time directive
  • NWP and the Working Time Directive 2009. In 2009 the maximum hours that junior medical staff in the NHS work will be reduced from 58 to 48 under European law. This is a major challenge for the health service and will require new ways of working to be adopted. NHS National Workforce Projects has been appointed as the lead organisation to help support the NHS in finding and implementing solutions to WTD 2009. We are working with a wide group of stakeholders and piloting solutions that look at new ways of working and communicating best practice in the buildup to 2009.
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