What's The Law On Working Weekends? | Checkatrade
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What’s the law on working weekends?

If you run a trade business with employees, you might be wondering what the law on working weekends is. This guide will break down what you need to know as a business owner for your employees or subcontractors.

Run a trade business? Want to know if you can ask your employees to work on weekends? Here, we’ll break down the law on weekend working and share tips on asking your team to do it.

Working weekends law in the UK

 Wondering about working weekends and the UK law? Well, whether or not your employee can do weekend working will depend on the terms of their employment contract.

If their contract references that they’re required to work at weekends, they can be asked to work. This might be:

  • A regular commitment
  • An occasional request

As a tradesperson, you might be wondering ‘can I refuse to work weekends in the UK?’ Well, if your contract or work agreement doesn’t mention weekend working, you can’t be made to work without an agreed change.

You might be able to vary normal working hours if there’s a flexibility clause in the contract. But otherwise, you’ll need to get a written agreement from your employee.

How do you ask your team to work on weekends?

 Sometimes you might want an employee to work at the weekend as a one-off. Maybe a job has taken longer than you expected it to, or there’s been a sudden increase in customer demand.

In this case, you might be able to ask your employee to work outside of their normal contractual hours. This is because it won’t involve a permanent change in their employment contract.

Remember though, they don’t have to say yes to weekend working if it’s not in their contract. So, be aware that they could refuse!

It might be worth thinking about any incentives you could offer them to encourage them to agree to weekend work. i.e.

  • Additional pay (or pay at a higher rate)
  • Time off in lieu (so they can take the weekend hours at another time)

Ultimately, the happier you keep your employees, the more likely they are to want to do you a favour. They might even show eagerness to work weekends every now and again.

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What are the maximum working hours per week?

Wondering about the maximum days allowed to work in a row in the UK? As well as the maximum hours allowed to work in a week? You’ll need to make sure employees don’t go over their maximum working hours per week.

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees can’t work more than an average of 48 hours weekly.

Average weekly hours are normally calculated over a 17-week period. So, you could work more than 48 hours in one week, then you’d need to do less than 48 in another. Simply ensure their average over the 17 weeks doesn’t exceed 48 hours.

Making provisions for different working times

If you want your employees to work more than 48 hours per week, there are other options.

  • You can ask them to “opt out” of the working time provisions – meaning these regulations wouldn’t apply
  • You can’t dismiss people or treat them unfairly if they decide to stick with standard working time
  • Your employees can change their mind about opting out at any time, as long as they give you notice

Notification periods for working changes are often seven days in advance, but it can be up to three months if you agree this in writing.

Working weekends law UK

Is there a law against working 7 days a week in the UK?

 Perhaps you’re wondering ‘Is it legal to work 7 days a week?’ Or how many days you can work in a row?

Well, you can’t expect employees to work seven days a week in the UK. Instead, they’re entitled to something called ‘weekly rest.’

That means they should get either:

  • An uninterrupted 24 hours without work every week
  • An uninterrupted 48 hours without work every fortnight

On top of this, employees are entitled to 11 hours of rest between working days (known as their ‘daily rest’). And employees working a night shift can’t work for more than eight hours in each 24-hour period.

If you have any employees under the age of 18, the rules are a little stricter. They’ll need:

  • 12 hours of rest between working days
  • A weekly rest of 48 hours

Adequate rest and downtime is vital for mental wellbeing. And, if you’re an employer, it’s important you’re educated on the topic of tradespeople and mental health.

As a trade business owner, or as a sole trader, regularly taking time off is essential. Maintaining a good work-life balance will help you stay focussed on the task in hand and help you stay happy in your career.

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Do you get paid more for working weekends?

You don’t have to pay your employees more for working weekends unless you’ve agreed to it in writing.

However, lots of employers do offer their employees time-and-a-half or double time for weekend working, as an incentive.

If you’ve asked your employee to work at the weekend as overtime, you’ll need to pay their usual overtime rate. Again, this doesn’t have to be more than their usual rate of pay, but it can be.

It all depends on what was outlined in your employee’s contract!

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Weekend working FAQs

Employee refusing to work Saturdays – what do I do?

Employees may come to you with queries. They could ask ‘can I refuse to work more than my contracted hours?’, and ‘Are Saturday and Sunday working days?’.

So, as an employer, you need to be ready to tackle these kinds of questions. Especially if your trade business offers “emergency” types of service, such as plumbing and electrical work.

Try to look at things from their perspective and see if you can meet them halfway. For instance, perhaps you could just ask them to work the odd Saturday, rather than all of them.

What’s the law on working every weekend?

Wondering how many weekends can you work in a row? Well, as an employer, you can ask your employees to work every weekend, as long as it’s contractually agreed.

Just remember that they need 24 hours off every week or 48 every two weeks. These days off don’t have to be at the weekend, but you’ll need to make sure you’re providing them.

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Content disclaimer: This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer here.

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