Working hours & breaks

Guidance on working hours and breaks in the Republic of Ireland.

The maximum number of hours that an employee should work in an average working week is 48 hours, according to the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. This working week average should be calculated over a four-month period. There are however some exceptions to this average period.

Averaging may be balanced out over a 4, 6 or 12 month period depending on the circumstances. The 48-hour net maximum working week can be averaged according to the following rules:

  • for employees generally - 4 months
  • for employees where work is subject to seasonality, a foreseeable surge in activity, or where employees are directly involved in ensuring continuity of service or production – 6 months
  • for all employees who enter into a collective agreement with their employers which is approved by the Labour Court – 12 months.


Employees are entitled to;

  • A daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24 hour period
  • A weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours per seven days, following a daily rest period
  • A 15-minute break where more than 4½ hours have been worked
  • A 30-minute break where more than 6 hours have been worked, which may include the first break

Payment for breaks is not a statutory entitlement.

Night Work

The Organisation of Working Time Act defines "Night Time" as the period between midnight and 7.00 a.m. next morning.

It defines a "Night Worker" as an employee –

  1. who normally works at least 3 hours of his or her daily working time during night time,
  2. the number of hours worked by whom during night time, in each year, equals or exceeds 50 per cent of the total number of hours worked by him or her during that year.

For night workers generally, the maximum night working time is 48 hours per week averaged over a 2 month period or a longer period specified in a collective agreement which must be approved by the Labour Court.

For night workers whose work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, there is an absolute limit of 8 hours in a 24 hour period during which they perform night work.

Banded Hours

Irish legislation: The Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 2018 introduced a new right for employees whose contract of employment, or statement of terms of employment, does not reflect the reality of the hours they habitually work.

How will the Banded Hours provision work?

An employee may request, in writing, to be placed in the relevant band of hours. The employer has four weeks to consider the request.

Current employees will not have to wait 12 months after commencement of this provision to seek to be placed on a band of hours. (From 4 March 2019, an employee who believes their contract, or 5 day statement, does not reflect the hours they have consistently worked over the previous 12 months of service with their employer may request to be placed by that employer in a band of hours that better reflects the hours they have worked regularly).