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Working Hours - Myth and Legend


Salon owners frequently ring me with queries about the laws relating to the working hours of staff. Many seem to have unusual ideas about the laws or lack of them.

Sometimes they simply transfer the rules from where they used to work and assume they are right. It is important salon owners are aware of the legal position and anaging the working hours of staff effectively can greatly enhance the efficiency of your salon.

The Law

The European Working Time Directive 1996 was introduced as a piece of health and safety legislation ie ensuring staff had paid holiday to ensure they had “rest” , limits on their hours of work and adequate rest breaks. Special provisions were introduced for young workers- those aged under 18.

The Facts

The maximum working week for adult workers is 48 hours per week (averaged over a period of 17 weeks). Staff can opt out if this ceiling but can withdraw their agreement at any time subject to notice. Young workers, ie those under 18 years cannot opt out.

Employees should have at least one day off per week or 2 days per fortnight. Young workers must have 2 days off per week.ie they have a maximum 5 day week.

If the working day extends beyond 6 hours staff are entitled to a minimum break of 20 minutes (which can be paid or unpaid). The same rule applies even if the shift extends to 12 hours ie staff are not entitled to 2 breaks. In the case of young workers, they must have a 30 minute break after 4.5 hours.

The maximum working day is 13 hours, for young workers it is 12 hours. Full time staff should receive a minimum of 28 days paid annual leave per annum, including bank holidays.

There is no legal definition of what is “full time” and no entitlement to a higher rate of pay where staff work additional hours or on a weekend or bank holiday. This is for the employer to determine in their contract of employment ad workplace rules.

Helpful Hints

  • Your contract of employment should specify the contractual working hours and indicate the break allowance and if these are paid or unpaid.
  • If your staff are likely to work beyond the 48 hours per week you should obtain their written agreement to this, you cannot impose this in your contract of employment.
  • The 28 days annual leave includes bank holidays and of you are likely to open on bank holidays you should specify the holiday entitlement as 28 days rather than 20 days plus bank holidays. You can fix the dates of holidays for staff.
  • The rules on breaks are clear ie 20 minutes per day minimum, after 6 hours. There is no legal entitlement to tea or cigarette breaks! If you give discretionary breaks the salon should reserve the right to insist that they are lost when the salon is busy.
  • Under the same regulations full time staff must receive 28 days paid holiday (rest) per year. This can include the 8 public holidays.

There have been 2 major European Court of Justice Cases which will not be welcomed by employers.

  • In the first case they rules hat employees who are sick whilst on holiday and inform their employer should be classified as being sick and therefore be able to retake the leave. Hopefully, few staff will actually request this; particularly for short periods of absence, as they would be unpaid for the first 3 days and only obtain SSP (unless you pay occupational sick pay). After seven days there would still be the requirement to provide a sick note.
  • The second case has more implications. I have advised for some time that employees shouldn’t continue to accrue leave whilst on sick leave. However, in the case of Stringer v HMRC the ruling was that staff should be able to carry leave forward if they have not been able to take it due to sickness. It is small comfort but employers can insist that all outstanding leave is taken immediately following the employees return. The decision only relates to 20 days holiday rather than the UK s minimum of 28 days.

This Months Question

An employee has been with me for 4 months and has already had 5 absences, all on a Friday or Saturday. Under normal circumstances I would be ending her employment in her Probationary Period However she has today informed me she is pregnant. Have you any advice?

Many employers would be nervous in this position and do nothing. The employee I slikely to take ayears maternity leave and may or may not return.However this is really postponing dealing with the problem. The danger is that she can claim sex discrimination (and therefore doesn’t need 12 months service).However whilst pregnant staff have special protection they are not exempt from performance management. If you are satisfied none of her absences are pregnancy related and she can offer no other explanation you might decide to go ahead and deal with her as you would any other employee.

David Wright Personnel

Phone - 01522 831 061

Mobile - 07930 358 067