Which groups of workers are not covered by working time rules, or treated as a special case?

Some groups used to be completely exempt from all working time rights, and others currently miss out on some working time protection.

  • Transport staff who are 'mobile', such as train drivers, do not get the same rights to breaks, but do benefit from the 48-hour average weekly limit, and must receive 'adequate rest'. This also applies to rail staff whose work is linked to railway timetables and ensuring continuity of rail traffic, such as signal box operators. Most transport staff who work at a fixed location ('non-mobile' workers in legal jargon) have full protection.
  • Mobile air transport workers are covered by the Aviation Directive.
  • Seafarers are covered by a separate directive, and workers in river and lake transport are covered by the Inland Waterways Working Time Regulations. There are also special rules for sea fishermen. You should take further advice if you work in any of these industries.
  • Lorry and public transport drivers, i.e. those who must have LGV and PSV licences, are covered by the Road Transport Directive. They are also covered by the tachograph rules on driving time. There are no opt-outs in this sector.
  • Off-shore workers are covered by the regulations, but the weekly working time limit is averaged over 52 weeks.
  • Domestic staff in private households are entitled to rest breaks and paid holidays, but have limited protection against working long hours.
  • Protection for junior doctors by the regulations has been normalised since August 2009.
  • Armed forces and the police are not covered.
  • Ambulance personnel, firefighters and prison staff are covered, although regulations are waived to deal with emergencies.
  • Those whose 'working time is not measured or pre-determined' are not covered. This includes top managers who are free to set their working hours, workers employed by other members of their family and some other unusual jobs such as ministers of religion.

There are other groups which enjoy working time rights, but whose employers are given more flexibility in how to implement them. These include:

  • security guards, caretakers and similar jobs;
  • jobs which involve travelling long distances;
  • jobs that require 'continuity of service or production', such as hospitals, the media, prisons, docks, airports, post and telecoms, civil protection, agriculture, and industries where work cannot be interrupted, such as the utilities;
  • jobs where there are seasonal rushes, such as tourism and agriculture; and
  • shift workers in the process of changing shift.
Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.