EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Organisation of working time (basic Directive)


To adopt minimum requirements covering certain aspects of the organisation of working time connected with workers' health and safety.


Council Directive 93/104/EC, of 23 November 1993, concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time.

Amended by Directive 2000/34/EC of 22 June 2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council.


Scope: Initially, all sectors of activity except transport, activities at sea and the activities of doctors undergoing training. Since the amendment of June 2000, workers belonging to these three categories have been covered by certain provisions governing rest periods, breaks, working hours, paid holidays and night work. Certain articles of the initial directive do not apply to these categories, but ad hoc measures have been adopted, such as the establishment of a maximum number of working hours or, alternatively, a minimum number of rest hours for workers on board shipping vessels at sea.

Definition of the terms "working time", "rest period", "night work": any period of not less than seven hours, as defined by national legislation and including in all cases the period from 12 midnight to 5 a.m.; "night worker": any worker who performs at least three hours of his daily work or a part of his annual work (as defined by the Member States) during the night work period; "shift work": any method of organising work whereby workers succeed each other in the same tasks in accordance with a given time schedule at different times over a given period of days or weeks.

Directive 2000/34/EC amending Directive 93/104/EC adds the terms "adequate rest"; "mobile worker": any worker employed as a member of travelling or flying personnel by an undertaking which operates transport services for passengers or goods by road, air, or inland waterway; "offshore work": work performed mainly on or from offshore installations.

Member States shall take measures to ensure that workers enjoy:

  • the minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per period of 24 hours;
  • the minimum period of one rest day on average immediately following the daily rest period in every seven-day period;
  • for a daily period of work of more than six hours, a break as defined by the provisions of collective agreements, agreements concluded between social partners or national legislation;
  • not less than four weeks' annual paid holiday, qualification for which shall be determined by reference to national practice/legislation;
  • an average weekly working period of not more than 48 hours, including the overtime for each seven-day period.

Normal hours of work for night workers must not exceed an average of eight hours in any 24-hour period. Workers shall be entitled to a free health check-up before being employed on night work and at regular intervals thereafter. Anyone suffering from health problems connected with night work must be transferred, wherever possible, to day work.

Employers who regularly use night workers must duly inform the authorities responsible for health and safety matters.

Night workers must enjoy a level of health and safety protection commensurate with the nature of their work. Protection and prevention facilities must be equivalent to those of other workers and must be available at all times.

Employers who organise work in accordance with a certain time schedule must abide by the general principle of adapting the work to man, especially in the case of monotonous tasks required to be performed in quick succession.

Member States may stipulate reference periods:

  • not exceeding 14 days for the weekly rest period;
  • not exceeding four months for the maximum weekly working period;
  • and for the duration of night work.

Derogations are permitted:

  • on condition that the general principles of the protection of workers' health and safety are complied with, where the duration of work is not measured and/or predetermined by the worker himself;
  • in the case of activities where the worker's place of work and his place of residence are distant from one another;
  • in the case of security and surveillance activities in order to protect property and persons;
  • in the case of activities involving the need for continuity of service or production, such as treatment and/or care provided by hospitals; agriculture; or again press and information services;
  • where there is a foreseeable surge of activity, particularly in agriculture, tourism and the postal services; in the case of persons working in railway transport.
  • provided that equivalent compensatory rest periods are granted to the workers concerned:

- in accordance with the criteria listed in the directive, for example in the case of activities where the service or production has to be continuous;

- by means of collective agreements or agreements concluded between social partners.

A transitional period of five years from 1 August 2004 has been laid down for doctors in training. During the first three years of the transitional period, the number of weekly working hours may not exceed an average of 58. Subsequently, in the two following years, it may not exceed an average of 56. A sixth transitional year may be granted to certain Member States. In this case, the ceiling is 52 weekly working hours.

At the end of this transitional period, the ceiling will be 48 hours weekly.

4) deadline for implementation of the legislation in the member states

Directive 93/104/EC: 23.11.1996

Directive 2000/34/EC: 01.08.2003 (for doctors in training: 01.08.2004)

5) date of entry into force (if different from the above)

Directive 2000/34/EC: 01.08.2000.

6) references

Official Journal L 307, 13.12.1993Official Journal L 195, 01.08.2000

7) follow-up work

Directives (EC) No 104/1993 and (EC) No 34/2000 were repealed by Directive (EC) No 88/2003 of the European Parliament and the Council of 4 November 2003 on certain aspects of the organisation of working time.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions concerning the re-exam of Directive 93/104/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time [COM(2003) 843 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission - State of implementation of Council Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time ("Working Time Directive") [COM(2000) 787 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

On 18 November 1998 the Commission presented a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the organisation of working time in the sectors and activities excluded from Directive 93/104/EC of 23 November 1993 [COM(98) 662 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The Communication presents the measures proposed by the Commission to protect workers whose sectors were excluded from the scope of the Directive on working time 93/104/EC (air, rail, road, sea, inland waterway and lake transport, sea fishing, other work at sea and activities of doctors in training).

The Commission has always held that workers in these sectors should benefit from minimum standards in order to protect their own health and safety (excessive working time, inadequate rest). During the process of adopting Directive 93/104/EC the Commission gave the European Parliament an undertaking that it would take initiatives concerning the excluded sectors. Besides, in the medium-term action programme for 1995-1997, it declared that it wanted to continue the discussions with the social partners on this issue.

On 15 July 1997 the Commission adopted a White Paper on the sectors and activities excluded from the Directive on working time [COM(97) 334 final - not published in the Official Journal], in which it presented the characteristics of each sector and the various possible approaches. A second consultation phase was launched on 31 March 1998 [SEC(1998) 537 final - not published in the Official Journal].

The professional organisations consulted supported the differentiated approach proposed by the Commission. Most of the bodies approved including non-mobile workers within the scope of Directive 93/104/EC. Subsequently, the discussions were stepped up within the joint committees concerned and formal agreements on working time were signed in the sea and rail transport sectors. However, the negotiations on road transport did not lead to the signature of an agreement.

In this Communication the Commission explains the approach selected, which takes account of the particular constraints that affect these sectors and activities and also ensures overall consistency with the other legislative texts on transport safety. In effect the Community action must allow firms to remain flexible, take into account any impact on employment, avoid imposing unreasonable constraints on firms and notably small businesses and, finally, cater for the specific features of each sector (heterogeneity of sea fishing, for example).

This approach consists of:

- horizontal measures: the Commission proposes amending Directive 93/104/EC to extend its application to:

  • all non-mobile workers, including doctors in training and workers at sea;
  • all mobile railway workers;
  • mobile workers in the road, air, inland and sea transport sectors and sea fishing.

- sectoral measures, specifically:

  • proposal for a Council Directive on the organisation of working time for mobile workers performing road transport activities and for self-employed drivers;
  • Council Directive concerning the agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers concluded by the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA) and the Federation of Transport Workers' Unions in the European Union (FST), adopted by the Council on 21 June 1999 (Directive 1999/63/EC);
  • Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the enforcement of seafarers' hours of work onboard ship using Community ports;
  • Commission Recommendation inviting Member States to ratify ILO Convention 180 concerning seafarers' hours of work and the manning of ships and the 1996 Protocol to the 1976 Merchant Shipping (Minimum Standards) Convention.

8) commission implementing measures

Last updated: 08.08.2001