Working time

Document | 01 September 2010

Some of the current challenges in working time are the same as those motivating the adoption of the ILO's first Convention, the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention, 1919 (No. 1): excessive hours of work and inadequate periods of rest and recuperation, which can damage workers' health and increase the risk of work accidents. In many parts of the world, there is a significant link between low wages and excessive working time. Long working hours prevents workers from getting adequate rest, attending to family responsibilities and participating in the community.

ILO standards on working time provide the framework for regulating hours of work, daily and weekly rest periods, and annual holidays. Most countries have statutory limits of weekly working hours of 48 hours or less, and the hours actually worked per week in most countries are less than the 48-hour standard established in ILO conventions. These limits serve to promote higher productivity while safeguarding workers’ physical and mental health.

Working time policies enabling both men and women to reconcile work and family responsibilities contribute significantly to achieving gender equality at work. New forms of working time such as compressed workweeks, staggered working time arrangements, annualized working hours, flexitime and on-call work, offer new opportunities and challenges.

Q&As on Business and working time

  • Working hours
  • Working hours - overtime
  • Rest periods - Weekly rest
  • Paid holidays