Working Time Regulations

The working time regulations are designed to limit the number of hours an individual is permitted to work in a working week.  Individuals are limited to a weekly average of 48 hours taken over a 17 week period.  An individual may work more than 48 hours in a week but must reduce the number of hours in subsequent weeks to ensure that when the 17 week average is calculated, the individual has not worked more than the 48 hours average.  Doctors in training are covered by the regulations.

A working week consists of your usual duties and:

  • job-related training
  • job-related travelling time, for example, if you are a sales rep
  • working lunches, for example business lunches
  • time spent actually working abroad in some cases
  • paid and some unpaid overtime
  • time spent on-call at the workplace

But does not include:

  • breaks when no work is done, such as lunch breaks
  • normal travel to and from work
  • time when you are on call away from the workplace
  • evening and day-release classes not related to work
  • travelling outside of normal working hours
  • unpaid overtime that you have volunteered for, so for example, staying late to finish something off
  • paid or unpaid holiday

[Source: Directgov]

Opting out
An individual is allowed to opt out of the 48 hours limitation.  This must be voluntary and requires a formal written agreement between the employer and the employee.  If the individual changes their mind, then the agreement can be scrapped with seven days notice but could take up to three months depending on the nature of the agreement with the employer.

Trainees have the same rights to opt out of the working time regulations restrictions as consultants and SAS grade/Specialty doctors but:

  • It must be voluntary
  • Trusts must not plan a rota assuming trainees will opt out
  • Trainees cannot opt out of the rest breaks
  • Trainees must comply with the maximum of 56 hours restriction

So in summary, a trainee working a 48 hour compliant rota can opt out to work an additional eight hours per week.  If a trainee is working a 52 hour derogation compliant rota, then they can only opt out and work an additional four hours per week.

The NHSLA have also provided a statement on indemnity of trainees working in excess of EWTD hours.