Law guide: Employment

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Agreeing alternative work times

Agreeing alternative work times


The rights set out in this section apply to workers (individuals contracted to provide work or services to you on a full-time, part-time or fixed-term basis). This includes employees but not self-employed staff.

The Regulations enable you and your employee to enter into an agreement to establish the way in which some of the working time rules apply in the workplace. Provision is made for workforce agreements with the workforce representative, collective agreements which are made with the independent recognised trade unions and written agreements of employment that are legally enforceable agreements entered into between you and the worker.

Limits on working time

The main situation in which written agreement between you and your worker can be utilised, is to modify or exclude the limits on weekly working time. If you enter into an agreement with such modifications or exclusions, you must allow the worker wherever possible to an equivalent period of compensatory rest.

If it is not possible in the circumstances to provide the required rest periods, you must safeguard your worker's health and safety by implementing appropriate protection.

In the case of a workforce agreement, the Regulations provide for the following conditions:

  • The agreement is in writing
  • It has effect for a specified period not exceeding five years
  • It applies either to 'relevant members of the workforce' or to all relevant members of the workforce who belong to a 'particular group'
  • It has been signed by representatives of the workforce/group (or, if an employer employs 20 or fewer workers, by the majority of workers)
  • Before it was made available for signature, the employer provided all workers to whom it was intended to apply, with copies of the text of the agreement and such guidance to those workers who might reasonably require it, in order to understand it fully

For these purposes, the relevant members of the workforce are all the workers employed by a particular employer, excluding any worker whose terms and conditions are provided for, wholly or in part, in a collective agreement.


A particular group is a group of the relevant members of the workforce who undertake a particular function, work at a particular workplace or belong to a particular department or unit within the employer's business.

The requirements relating to the election of representatives of the workforce/group are the following:

  • The number of representatives to be elected is determined by the employer
  • The candidates for election are relevant members of the workforce/group
  • No one who is eligible to be a candidate is unreasonably excluded from standing for election
  • All the relevant members of the workforce/group are entitled to vote and may cast as many votes as there are representatives to be elected
  • The election is conducted so as to secure that insofar as it is reasonably practicable, those voting do so in secret, and votes given at the election are fairly and accurately counted

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