2 January 2020

The working time according to The Working Environment Act

The Working Environment Act defines working time as the time at which an employee is available to the employer. The time that the employee is not available to the employer counts as the employee’s leisure time.

The Working Environment Act appoints the length, location, and limits of working hours for most employees. It also gives employees, under certain conditions, the right to different types of adjusted working time schemes, such as flexible working hours, reduced working hours and exemptions from night work.

Exemptions from working time

The rules on working hours apply to all employees, but there are exceptions within the Working Environment Act. It regards employees who set their tasks independently, they decide for themselves what to do, what to delegate to others, when and how the work should ends. Two positions that meet these requirements are:

  • leading position (senior positions with clear managerial functions, like department heads or office managers).
  • particularly independent position (employees who do not have direct managerial functions, but who still have senior and responsible positions).

Employees exempted from working time regulations qualify under the same conditions as other employees to reduced working hours and exclusion from night work. Even though an employee is exempt from the working time regulations, the proper arrangement of working hours is still required (to avoid exposition to unfortunate physical or mental strain and to safeguard the workers’ safety).

Also, certain functions, professions and tariff areas can be exempted from the general working hours rules. For these positions, the usual working hours provisions are inappropriate to apply. About 10-15% of employees in Norway are currently exempt from the working time rules on this basis.

Limits to the working hours

There are also limits to the number of working hours and distribution throughout the day. The working time should be shorter if one has a challenging working time scheme and can be made longer in case of passive work. According to the Working Environment Act, normal working hours must not exceed nine hours during a day and the normal working week:

  • must not exceed 40 hours during seven days period – work beyond the limits set by the Working Environment Act defines as overtime;
  • must be sound – the working time scheme should not jeopardize the health or safety of the employee).

The Working Environment Act, therefore, gives employees the right to several forms of adapted working time schemes, such as flexible working hours, reduced working hours, exemptions for night work and exemptions for overtime work.


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