The European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is designed to protect employees across Europe from working excessively long hours. Since August 2004 the maximum working week for all junior hospital posts for doctors and dentists has been limited to 58 hours. This will be further reduced to 56 hours in August 2007 and 48 hours in 2009.
Rest requirements include a minimum rest break of 20 minutes when the working day is more than 6 hours and a minimum rest period of 24 hours in each 7-day period. All resident hours count as work whether or not a practitioner is called to return to duty.
For night workers an average of no more than eight hours work in 24 over the reference period. GPs do not fall within the remit of the EWTD as they are self-employed.