This Directive lays down minimum safety and health requirements for the organisation of working time. It sets minimum periods of daily rest, weekly rest and annual leave, breaks and maximum weekly working time.
It also aims to protect workers from negative health effects due to shift and night work as well as certain patterns of work.
This Directive does not apply where other Community instruments contain more specific requirements relating to the organisation of working time for certain occupations or occupational activities.
The Directive gives legal definitions of the terms "working time", "rest period", "adequate rest", "night time", "night worker", "shift work", "shift worker", "mobile worker", "adequate rest" and "offshore work".
Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period. Moreover, they shall take the measures necessary to ensure that, per each seven-day period, every worker is entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours (plus the 11 hours' daily rest if possible).
Every worker is entitled to a rest break if the working day is longer than six hours. Details including duration and the terms on which it is granted, shall be laid down in collective agreements, agreements between the two sides of industry or by national legislation.
The average weekly working time shall not exceed 48 hours.
Every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least four weeks. This minimum period of paid annual leave can not be replaced by an allowance except where the employment relationship is terminated.
Member States shall ensure that normal hours of work for night workers do not exceed an average of eight hours in any 24-hour period. They shall also ensure that night workers whose work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain do not work more than eight hours in any period of 24 hours during which they perform night work.
Night workers are entitled to a free health assessment before their assignment and to regular checks thereafter. Night workers suffering from health problems recognised as being connected with the fact that they perform night work are to be transferred whenever possible to day work to which they are suited.
Member States shall ensure that night workers and shift workers have safety and health protection appropriate to the nature of their work and that appropriate protection and prevention services or facilities with regard to the safety and health of night workers and shift workers are equivalent to those applicable to other workers and are available at all times.
Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that an employer who intends to organise work according to a certain pattern takes account of the general principle of adapting work to the worker, with a view, in particular, to alleviating monotonous work and work at a predetermined work-rate, and of safety and health requirements, especially as regards breaks during working time.
Special provisions for offshore workers
The Commission Report on the operation of the provisions of Directive 2003/88/EC applicable to offshore workers (COM/2006/0853 final) gives an overview on the provisions of this Directive that are applicable to offshore workers.
Offshore workers are covered by the provisions of Directive 2003/88/EC. However, Member States may derogate from the provisions concerning daily rest, breaks, weekly rest periods, length of night work and reference periods for the application of rest periods and working time and lay down, by law or regulation, a reference period of not more than twelve months for calculating the maximum weekly working hours.
See also information from EU bodies:
Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on implementation by Member States of Directive 2003/88/EC (‘The Working Time Directive’) (2010)
Commission Staff Working Paper - Detailed report on the implementation by Member States of Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (‘The Working Time Directive’) (2010)
Communication from the Commission - Review of the Operation of the Provisions with Regard to Workers on Board Seagoing Fishing Vessels Contained in Directive 2003/88/EC (2011)
Interpretative Communication on Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (2017)
Working time - dedicated webpage of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions