The Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) requires EU Member States to guarantee the following rights for all workers:

  • A limit to weekly working hours;
  • A rest break during working hours longer than six hours;
  • A minimum daily rest period;
  • A minimum weekly rest period;
  • Paid annual leave of at least four weeks per year; and
  • extra protection in case of night work.

However, derogations from these rights are allowed under certain circumstances and with due regard to the health and safety of workers. Individual opt-out is possible and Member States may derogate from the rules for specific categories of workers, including military personnel.

The Working Time Directive derives from principle 10 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, Healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection; and Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


Court of Justice EU (CJEU): Most important case law relating to WTD

C-214/20 (Ireland) – WTD in relation to Dublin firefighter and standby system: press release; case results.
C-742/19 (Slovenia) – Regarding the applicability of the WTD to the Armed Forces: press release.

European Commission

Report on the implementation by Member States of Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time (March 2023)
Employment, social affairs and inclusion information page (October 2021)


EUROMIL, Question on the implementation of the Working Time Directive (national regulation) for the reserve forces (December 2023)
EUROMIL, The Implementation of the WTD and Safety and Health in the Armed Forces, Event 25 May 2022, Paris (June 2022)
ERA Forum, Recent case law summary (March 2022)
Eurofound, ‘Industrial relations and social dialogue: Working time in 2019-2020’ (October 2021)
EUROMIL, Position Paper on Working Time in the Armed Forces (May 2023)