The European Working Time Regulations were introduced into Northern Ireland in 1998.

The regulations

These regulations created measures designed to protect the health and safety of workers and aim to ‘improve health and safety at work by introducing minimum rules for employees relating to daily and weekly rest periods, rest breaks, annual leave entitlements, length of working week, and on night work’.

Some groups of workers were initially excluded from these regulations, including doctors in training but from August 2004, the provisions of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) applied to doctors in training also. This means ensuring that doctors in training can work safely and effectively without excessive workloads that might compromise patient care.

Requirements of the Working Time Directive

The key aspects of the European Working Time Directive as it applied to the hours worked by doctors in training are a reduction to an overall average weekly working hours of 48 hours. Within these hours, doctors in training are entitled to rest provisions of:

  • 11 hours continuous rest in every 24 hour period
  • minimum 20 minute break when shift exceeds 6 hours
  • minimum 24 hour rest in every 7 days or minimum 48 hour rest in every 14 days
  • minimum 4 weeks paid annual leave
  • maximum 8 hours work in 24 hours if categorised as a night worker

Circular HSC (TC8) 3-2012 - EWTD opt-out form for junior doctors, showing the opt in/opt out form and indemnity statement is published on the Department of Health 2012 guidance page.

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