The Organisation of Working Time Laws of 2002 and 2007, consist of the principal Law, which came into force on 1 January 2003 and the amendment Law, governing the powers and duties of Inspectors, which came into force on 16 February 2007. This Law lays down minimum safety and health requirements for the organisation the working time of workers.

It applies to all businesses, undertakings and activities, both private and public, except in relation to:

  • Members of the Armed Forces
  • Members of the Police Force
  • Seamen covered by the Merchant Shipping Law 2003

Certain derogations or exceptions from specific provisions of the Law are allowed for prescribed activities and cases.

The Law provides, inter alia, for:

  • The minimum daily and weekly rest periods
  • The annual leave
  • The rest break time
  • The maximum weekly working time
  • The length of night work
  • Shift work
  • The work pace

The provisions of the Law lay down the minimum rights of workers in relation to the organization of their working time and in no case do they affect more favourable conditions of employment provided for by law, collective agreement or otherwise.

Every worker is entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.
Every worker is entitled to a minimum weekly rest period of 24 hours. If the employer so decides, the worker may, for a period of 14 days, have:

  • Two separate rest periods of 24 hours each; or
  • One rest period of 48 consecutive hours.

Every worker is entitled to a paid annual leave of at least four weeks, that is 20 working days for a five-day working week and 24 working days for a six-day working week. Payment in lieu of leave is allowed only in case of termination of the employment relationship.

When the working day is longer than six hours, the worker is entitled to a rest break of 15 consecutive minutes. During the break the worker may leave his work-station. The rest period may not be granted at the beginning or the end of the working day.

Except where more favourable provisions apply for the workers, the period of weekly working time cannot exceed 48 hours on average, including overtime. The average weekly working time is calculated over every period of four months. In calculating such average, periods of paid annual leave and of sick leave are disregarded. Where the employer requires the worker to work longer than 48 hours, this may be done only by prior mutual agreement.
The worker has the right to refuse, without any detriment to his employment.

Where, with the worker’s consent, the work exceeds the maximum weekly working time (48 hours), the employer has to:

  • Keep a record of the names of all workers working longer than 48 hours, and
  • Make this record available to the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, together with the workers’ particulars, including their consent to perform work exceeding the maximum of 48 hours.

The Minister may restrict or prohibit the possibility of exceeding the maximum weekly working hours for reasons of safety and health of the workers.

‘Night- time’ means the period from 11.00 pm to 6.a.m. ‘Night- worker’ means:

  • Any worker who normally works at least three hours during night time or
  • Any worker who is likely to work at least 726 hours of his annual working time during night- time or shorter hours, if this is provided for by collective agreement. In calculating the said number of hours account is taken of the total daily working time of the worker, regardless of the time of beginning or ending the shift, in so far as it includes at least three hours of the time from 11.00pm to 6.00am, over a period of seven consecutive hours of work (of which three during night time).
 

Length of Night work

The length of the worker’s night- work may not exceed on average eight hours in any period of 24 hours. This average is calculated over a period of one month or such other period, as may be specified by collective agreement. In calculating the said average no account is taken of the weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours, laid down by the Law.

Night-workers whose work involves special hazards or physical or mental strain, should not work more than eight hours in any period of 24 hours during which they perform night work.

Night work involving special hazards or physical or mental strain, unless defined by law, or collective agreement, is determined at the level of the undertaking after consultations between the employer and the workers’ representatives (or their safety and health representatives), in accordance with the Law and after a written risk assessment, including
the risks connected with night work.

Safety and Health during Night Work

  • An employer who employs night workers regularly, has to notify the fact in writing to the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance .
  • The employer must take the necessary measures to ensure that night workers and shift workers have the safety and health protection, which is appropriate to the nature of their work.
  • The employer must see that every night worker before his assignment, and thereafter at regular intervals, has undergone the necessary medical examinations free of charge, with a view to ascertaining the worker’s suitability for night work.

Where at a subsequent stage, it is proved that a night worker suffers from health problems recognized as being connected with the fact that he performs night work, he must be transferred, whenever possible, to day work to which he is suited.

With due regard for the general principles of the safety and health protection of the workers, the law provides for certain derogations in relation to:

  • The rest breaks
  • The daily and weekly rest period
  • The maximum weekly working time
  • The length of night work

The derogations allowed apply to workers, whose, on account of the specific characteristic of the activity they perform, the duration of the working time is not measured and/or predetermined or can be determined by the workers themselves, and particularly in the case of:

  • Management executives or other persons with autonomous decision powers
  • Family workers
  • Workers officiating at religious ceremonies in places of worship and religious communities
  • Doctors under specialization training (special provisions apply)

Subject to the provisions of the legislation in force, derogations from the provisions of specific sections of the Law may be adopted by means of collective agreement or agreement between the employer and the representatives of the workers concerned, provided that the workers are granted equivalent periods of compensatory rest; or, in exceptional cases in which, for objective reasons, it is not possible to grant such equivalent to workers in activities and cases prescribed by the law, the workers concerned should be afforded appropriate protection.

The law includes special provisions and exceptions for mobile workers.

The employer is obliged to organize the work in such a pattern as to alleviate monotony and work at a predetermined work-rate, with due regard to the safety and health of the workers concerned.

The Minister of Labour and Social Insurance has appointed inspectors for supervising the application of the Law. The 2007 Amendment Law lays down the powers and duties of such inspectors.

Jurisdiction over resolving any disputes of civil nature arising out of the application of the Law, has been assigned to the Labour Disputes Court.

An employer who contravenes the Law is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding €3.417 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.