Working Time Reference Periods

The Government defines a reference period as a 17 (or occasionally 18) week period where a worker's time is calculated and averages a 48-hour week. However, the reference period can be extended to 26 weeks where there is a collective or workforce agreement in place.

What are Reference Periods?

Rolling periods or fixed calendar periods can be implemented to suit the needs of individual businesses, however, agreements must be in place before changes take effect.

Default reference periods will begin at 00.00 on the nearest Monday morning on or after 1st April, 1st August and 1st December each year. Therefore, if a company fails to set its reference periods, then the Government's default dates are applicable.

To obtain mobile workers data to include within a Reference Period, we advise using your Tachograph Analysis Company, as the company will already be in a position to produce the WTD data for you.

Workforce Agreement

If your company wants to put in place a set of reference periods that are specific to its operation, then you are obliged to enter into a workforce agreement with your staff.

  • An election must be conducted and those voting must be able to do so in secret
  • The votes must be fairly and accurately counted
  • Candidates for election must be relevant members of the workforce or in the case of a group of workers they must be members of the group
  • Workers must be able to vote for as many candidates as there are representatives to be elected
  • The number of representatives to be elected is to be determined by the employer

To be valid, a workforce agreement should be:

  • It must be in writing and have an effect for a specific period (not exceeding 5 years)
  • Have been circulated in draft to all workers to whom it applies together with the guidance to assist their understanding of it
  • Be signed before it comes into effect either:
  • By all the representatives of the members of the workforce or group of workers or;
  • If there are 20 workers or fewer employed by a company, either by all representatives of a workforce or by a majority of the workforce

If your company fails to put in place a workforce agreement within a definitive reference period, then the government 17 & 18 week reference periods will apply at all times – a downloadable workforce agreement is available below.

Holiday & Sickness Impact

You should note that any full week(s) of statutory holiday or Sickness took from January 1st in any year, that fall within a reference period is to be calculated at 48 hours (9.6 hours per day). However, this only applies to the statutory entitlement laid down in the directive, which is 4 weeks in both cases

As an example, if a mobile worker is entitled to 5 weeks holiday and takes them as 5 full weeks, and was sick for 2 weeks and 3 days during the year, the calculations for the WTD would be as follows:

  • The first 4 full week’s holiday would be calculated as 48 hours per week or 9.6 hours per day in the reference period it fell within
  • The final week’s holiday would be calculated as 40 hours or 8 hours per day within the reference period applicable
  • The 2 full week’s sickness would be calculated as 48 hours for each week or 9.6 hours per day within the reference period applicable
  • The remaining 3 days sickness would be calculated at 8 hours per day within the reference period applicable

Changing Employers

Where a mobile worker ends employment with one employer, who operates road transport services for passengers or the movement of goods, during a reference period, and commences work for another, all relevant hours worked for the previous employer should be included in the calculation of working time for the reference period in question.

In such instances, employers must ask the new mobile worker in writing for an account of time spent working elsewhere. The mobile worker must declare this information in writing.

The WTD isn't all about more administrative pain, it can supply you with a great deal of information on costs, and can assist in the decision process if your fleet is engaged in many types of operational activities, being particularly useful where multi-drop activities are concerned.