My employer wants to have a 52-week reference period for working time rather than a 17-week one. Can it do this?

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), the 48-hour average working week is normally calculated using a 17-week reference period. This can be extended up to a maximum of 52 weeks by a collective agreement or workforce agreement, but only if there are objective or technical reasons concerning the organisation of work. An example of where such an extension might be useful is where workers are on annualised hours contracts.

A collective agreement is an agreement between the employer and an independent trade union. A workforce agreement is between an employer and the elected representatives of its employees or, in the case of small employers (i.e. those with 20 or fewer employees), the employees themselves. Workforce agreements are only allowed where there are no recognised unions.

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.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle