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Working Hours Act: overtime, breaks, maximum times

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The Working Hours Act protects the health of employees. It regulates important conditions such as the maximum length of work and the right to breaks and rest periods. Companies have to adhere to the guidelines. Employees should also know their rights and claims under the Working Hours Act. We explain how long you can work at most and what you need to know about the Working Hours Act ...

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➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is the maximum number of hours you can work?

Section 3 of the Working Hours Act prescribes: The working time per working day must not exceed eight hours. Breaks are not taken into account. This results in a maximum working time of 48 hours per week.

In exceptional cases, this maximum working time may be increased to up to ten hours per day. To cope with an increased volume of work, for example. Afterwards, it then needs to be compensated for by less work. Working hours may not exceed an average of eight hours over a period of six months.

What counts as working time?

According to the law, the working time is the time between the start and the end of work, excluding breaks. Anyone who works from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and takes a 30-minute lunch break has a working time of 30 minutes.

Arrivals and travel times are usually not working hours. Exceptions are business trips if work is carried out on the journey. Changing before work can count as working hours if work clothes are prescribed and employees have to change in the company.

Scope: Who does the Working Hours Act apply to?

The Working Hours Act applies in principle to all employees and trainees in this country. However, there are exceptions, which are regulated in Section 18 ArbZG. The following are excluded from the provisions of the Working Hours Act:

  • Executives within the meaning of Section 5 (3) of the Works Constitution Act and chief physicians
  • Head of public services and their representatives
  • Workers, family members (or other people) take responsibility for caring for, educating and / or looking after
  • Liturgical workers the churches and religious communities
  • Young people under 18 years of age (the Youth Labor Protection Act applies to these)
  • soldiers
  • Workers on merchant ships
  • Aviation workers

Special protection for young people in the Working Hours Act

Special regulations apply to employees under the age of 18. You can work a maximum of 40 hours a week from Monday to Friday. Exceptions are sectors with alternating shifts. Weekend work is allowed here - but night shifts are prohibited.

Minors are entitled to a 30-minute break if they work 4.5 hours or more. The rest period between two working days must be 12 hours.

Breaks and rest periods in the Working Hours Act

To protect employees, not only is the maximum working time limited. The Working Hours Act also specifies breaks and rest phases that must be observed. This guarantees sufficient opportunities for relaxation.

  • Breaks
    If you work six hours, you are entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes. With nine hours of work, this increases to 45 minutes. The breaks may be divided into sections of at least 15 minutes each.
  • Rest periods
    There must be at least eleven hours between the end of the working day and the start of the new working day. These regulations must also be adhered to in the case of shift work.

    In certain work areas, for example in hospitals, the rest time can be shortened by an hour, but has to be compensated elsewhere.

How long can I work on a piece?

Employees may not work longer than six hours without a break (Section 4 ArbZG). After this time at the latest, you have to take a break. Employers must pay attention to compliance.

Working time law on Sundays and public holidays

According to the Working Hours Act, employees may not be employed on Sundays and public holidays (Section 9 ArbZG). However, there are numerous exceptions to this initially general rule. In many areas it is absolutely necessary that work is also carried out on Sundays or public holidays.

These industries, which are excluded from the Sunday regulation, can also be found in the Working Hours Act. Section 10 of the ArbZG provides for the following exceptions:

  • in emergency and rescue services and the fire brigade
  • to maintain public safety and order: police, armed forces
  • in hospitals, care facilities for the care and care of people
  • in restaurants and hotels for catering and accommodation
  • at music events, theater, drama and similar events
  • in churches, religious societies, associations, clubs, parties
  • in sports and in leisure, recreation and amusement facilities such as museums and zoos
  • in the media sector (if it serves the daily news) such as radio, press, at news agencies
  • at trade fairs, exhibitions, markets and folk festivals
  • when transporting people in local and long-distance public transport
  • in agriculture and animal husbandry as well as the treatment and care of animals
  • in the security industry and in the guarding of operating facilities

Nevertheless, employees are legally entitled to at least 15 free Sundays per year. In addition, there is a substitute rest day within two weeks if work has to be done on Sundays. But here too there are exceptions,

  • 10 free Sundays for staff in hospitals and care facilities
  • 8 free Sundays for employees in radio, theater and orchestras
  • 6 free Sundays for workers in movie theaters and animal husbandry

Regulations in the on-call service

Whether and how the readiness affects working hours and the requirements of the Working Hours Act depends on the exact regulation. A distinction is made between three types of readiness:

On-call service

  • Employer determines whereabouts
  • Free design, but available and ready for use
  • Counts to working hours

On-call service

  • Employees determine their own whereabouts
  • Free design, but ready for use and retrieval
  • Only actual work is working time

Willingness to work

  • Workers in the workplace
  • Attentive and ready to go
  • Counts to working hours

What applies to night work and shift work?

Night time is the period between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. For bakeries and pastry shops, the time is from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. According to Section 2 of the Working Hours Act, night work is "any work that comprises more than two hours of night time". The special conditions of night work lead to adapted regulations for longer work:

  • Working hours of a maximum of eight hours a day.
  • Extension to a maximum of ten hours.
  • Compensation within four weeks.

The average of eight hours must be maintained within a month. In this way, the protection of employees is to be ensured despite the greater stress of night work.

In addition, night vision workers are entitled to a medical examination at least every three years. From the age of 50 this is even carried out annually.

FAQ: Questions and answers about the Working Hours Act

The Working Hours Act is an extensive and complex construct. Accordingly, there are many questions and ambiguities. Finally, in our FAQ we will address some of the most common questions and answer them for you. We have also made the FAQ available as a free download (PDF).

How long can the maximum working hours be exceeded?

This is not clearly regulated in the Working Hours Act. The decisive factor is the average of eight hours per day over a period of six calendar months or 24 weeks. Employers must enable corresponding reductions in working hours if overtime continues. The more often you do overtime, the greater the following compensations must be.

What consideration is there for overtime?

Overtime is times that go beyond the contractually agreed working hours. These may only be requested if they are necessary for the company and reasonable for the employee.

How they are dismantled is not clearly regulated by law. It is a matter of negotiation between employer and employee. Overtime can be remunerated by a separate payment or compensated for by a corresponding time off. In some industries, the compensation is regulated by collective agreements.

What happens if the Working Hours Act is violated?

Unfortunately, not every employer adheres to the Working Hours Act. Excessive working hours can already be stipulated in the employment contract. An invalid regulation that is to be replaced by the maximum time allowed according to the Working Hours Act.

Also, great importance is not always attached to how many employees work and whether the regulations of the Working Hours Act are adhered to. The employer has a documentation obligation if employees work longer. Violations can have different consequences:

  • fine
    If an employer violates the Working Hours Act, this misconduct can be punished as an administrative offense according to Section 22 ArbZG with a fine of up to 15,000 euros per violation.
  • report
    Employees can report violations to the responsible supervisory authorities. These control and, if necessary, initiate further measures.
  • Refusal to work
    If the boss insists that you work too much and violates the Working Hours Act, refusal to work is permitted.

When can the Working Hours Act be deviated from?

The Working Hours Act defines a number of exceptional cases that allow deviating from numerous provisions for a short time and violating regulations. These exceptions are regulated in Section 14 of the Working Hours Act. This includes emergency situations and negative events that can only be averted through extra work.

Examples are the impending spoilage of raw materials or food, but also important work results that threaten to fail. Such emergencies allow longer daily working hours. However, the obligation to compensate remains.

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