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 the dos and don'ts.

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 working weekends and share tips on asking your team to do it.

Working weekends law in the UK

In the UK, whether or not your employee can be made to work on weekends will depend on whether weekend working is in their employment contract.

In other words, if your employee’s contract references that they’re required to work at weekends, they can be asked to work on a Saturday and/or Sunday accordingly. This might be a regular commitment or an occasional request.

On the other hand, if your employee’s contract doesn’t mention weekend working, you can’t make them work at the weekend without you both agreeing to a contract change. You might be able to vary their normal working hours if there’s a flexibility clause in the contract, but otherwise, you’ll need to get 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 can ask your employee to work outside of their normal contractual hours without necessarily asking them to agree to 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. Maybe you could offer them additional pay (we’ll get onto that a bit later). Or maybe you could offer them time off in lieu.

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

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Maximum working hours per week

If you’re asking employees to work at the weekends, you’ll need to make sure that doesn’t lead to them going over their maximum working hours per week. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees can’t work more than an average of 48 hours a week.

Average weekly hours are normally calculated over a 17-week period. That means they could work more than 48 hours in one week, but then they’d need to work under 48 hours in another, making sure their average over the 17 weeks doesn’t exceed 48 hours.

If you want your employees to work more than 48 hours per week, you can ask them if they’d be willing to opt out of the working time provisions – meaning these regulations wouldn’t apply to them. However, you can’t dismiss them or treat them unfairly if they decide not to agree to this. Plus, they can change their mind about opting out at any time, as long as they give you notice (usually seven days, but it can be up to three months if you agree this in writing).

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

Yes! 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:

  1. An uninterrupted 24 hours without work every week
  2. 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 and a weekly rest of 48 hours.

Working weekends law UK

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

Just bear in mind that if you’ve asked your employee to work at the weekend as overtime, you’ll need to pay them 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 what was outlined in your employee’s contract!


Employee refusing to work Saturdays – what do I do?

If your employee is refusing to work on a Saturday and there’s no provision for weekend working in their contract, there’s not much you can do.

You can ask them to agree to a contractual change, but they’re entitled to refuse. So, the best way forward is often to incentivise them. For instance, could you offer them extra pay? Or days off in lieu?

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?

If you run a trade business, you can ask your employees to work every weekend, as long as it’s agreed in their contract.

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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