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Definition & Legal Instruments
Working time refers to the amount of time a person spends at work in a given time period, including overtime. 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. Standards on part-time work have become increasingly important instruments for addressing such issues as job creation and promoting equality between men and women.
ILO and UN Conventions
Two ILO conventions relate to working time:
- ILO Convention on Hours of Work, No. 1 (1919): The convention is the very first ILO convention. It limits the working week to 48 hours and includes provisions on rest days and overtime.
- ILO Convention on Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices), No. 30 (1930): The convention expands Convention No. 1 to additional industries and workers, including office work and commerce.
Additional ILO Instruments on Working Time
Other relevant ILO instruments on working time include:
- ILO Convention on Forty-Hour Week, No.47 (1935): The convention calls for a 40-hour work week with some limited exceptions.
- ILO Recommendation on Reduction of Hours of Work, No.116 (1962): The recommendation provides guidance on how States can progressively reduce hours of work while maintaining standards of living of workers.
- ILO Convention on Weekly Rest (Industry), No.14 (1921) and ILO Convention on Weekly Rest (Commerce and Office), No.106 (1957): Both conventions require that workers enjoy a rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours in a period of seven days.
- ILO Convention on Holidays with Pay, No.132 (1970): Requires that workers are provided annually at least three working weeks of paid holiday.
- ILO Convention on Night Work, No.171 (1990): The convention lays out requirements for the protection of those who work at night and for women night workers post-pregnancy.
- ILO Convention on Part-time Work, No.175 (1994): The convention requires States to ensure part-time workers get on a pro-rata basis the same working conditions, protection, basic wage and social security as full-time workers.
These conventions have not been widely ratified, except for ILO Convention No.1, which has been ratified by most countries. However, ratification does not ensure that the provision or enforcement of legal protection is of equal efficacy across all countries.
In addition to the ILO instruments, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) also includes relevant provisions regarding hours of work. Article 7 ICESCR affirms the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work including “[r]est, leisure and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay, as well as remuneration for public holidays”.
Other Legal Instruments
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) set the global standard regarding the responsibility of business to respect human rights in their operations and across their value chains. The Guiding Principles call upon States to consider a smart mix of measures — national and international, mandatory and voluntary — to foster business respect for human rights.