Set up employment policies for your business

Working time and time off policies

A policy on working time and time off should cover a number of areas.

Leave and absence

Occasionally, your workers will want or need time off.

In certain circumstances, you are legally obliged to give your workers time off, eg to take annual leave, attend health and safety training, time off for dependants and carry out trade union duties. See parental leave and time off for dependants and allowing time off work.

In other circumstances you can use your discretion, eg requests involving moving house or looking after a sick relative. However, having policies in place which pre-empt these types of requests will ensure that you deal with such matters consistently.

Working hours

Workers aged 18 or above may only work an average of 48 hours per week averaged out over a 17 week period (other limits apply for younger workers). However, they have the right to sign an opt-out agreement, which allows them to work more than this.

It's a good idea to manage these working hours and keep appropriate records. See hours, rest breaks and the working week.


You are not obliged to offer overtime to your workers or require them to work it. However, any overtime policy should still set out the rules on overtime. This is particularly important if your workers have come to expect regular overtime - they could claim it had become a contractual entitlement through custom and practice.

Rates of overtime pay should be agreed with employees, as no minimum statutory levels apply, although you should ensure that workers are paid at least the national minimum wage for all hours worked. See how to manage overtime.

Work-life balance

Encouraging work-life balance is important for your business. To achieve this, and as they are statutory rights, you should definitely have policies on:

  • parental leave
  • flexible working
  • maternity, adoption and paternity leave and pay

See how to promote good work/life balance in your business.

To access templates that you can download, tailor and use, see time off work policies and procedures.