EU employment law

EU laws on working time


The rules on working time, rest breaks and paid annual leave are set out in the European Union (EU) working time legislation.

As each member state has implemented the EU law into its own legislation, there may be local variations. Therefore, you should check the specific situation in the member state concerned.

As in the UK, a number of member states allow workers to work more than 48 hours per week (or to 'opt out') if they choose to do so. To do this, workers need to sign an opt-out agreement between themselves and their employer.

Note that this is the only aspect of the EU legislation it is possible to opt out of.

There are also differences across Europe in the amount of paid annual leave a worker is entitled to. The minimum according to the EU legislation is four weeks. However, the law in several countries, including the UK, sets a higher minimum.

You can get advice on the specific laws in any EU country using the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a network of business advice partner organisations across the EU. Find your nearest partner organisation.

Important: The UK has left the EU and there is now a transition period until the end of 2020. This information is still current but could change. Any changes will be documented here. For more information, see Brexit support for employers.