You’ll need to figure out the number of working weeks in a year for planning your work schedule, managing annual leave, and calculating entitlements. A standard year comprises 52 weeks. But how many of those do people normally work?

Well, it's not quite as simple as you might think. The figure will change depending on public holidays and each employee’s annual leave entitlements.

Here’s how it all works.

How many working weeks are in a year?

The standard number is typically around 47-49 working weeks in a year when working a full-time job.

Your exact number of working weeks can differ based on the company you work for and their specific holiday policy. Ordinarily, you would have at least 28 days of statutory holiday if you work full time, which is equivalent to around 5.6 weeks of holiday per year. So subtracting your holiday entitlement from the original 52 weeks will give you a more accurate number of your personal working weeks.

It's worth noting the actual number of working days can vary annually as well, considering that not all years are made equal, due to leap years. Part-time workers and those with irregular hours will also need to adjust their calculations accordingly to accurately reflect their working patterns.

What counts as a working week

A working week for a full-time employee typically consists of five working weekdays, from Monday to Friday, totalling 40 hours. This assumes an 8-hour workday. However, the actual number of working weeks can be less due to public holidays and personal leave. Here's a simple breakdown:

  • Total number of weeks in a year: 52
  • Public holidays: 8 days
  • Typical annual leave entitlement: 28 days (5.6 weeks including public holidays)

So, if you subtract leave from the total, you'd have approximately 47-49 working weeks in a year.

Working Time Regulations

In the UK, the Working Time Regulations ensure that your average working hours don’t exceed 48 hours per week unless you've agreed to work longer. This cap helps maintain a balance between work life and personal time. Here's what you should take note of:

  • Average work hours: Your average number of hours worked is calculated over a 17-week period.
  • Night work limits: Special rules apply if you're a night worker.

Your annual income and hourly rate can be influenced by these regulations. For example, if your contract stipulates a 37.5-hour week, then this could affect the total number of hours you work across a year compared to the standard 40-hour work week. Keep in mind that the Working Time Regulations are there to protect your health and safety by ensuring that your time on the job, including overtime, is within reasonable limits.

Figuring out your working weeks for the year

When planning your work year, you might want to count the typical working weeks, factor in public holidays and bank holidays, as well as your entitled annual leave.

Calculating work weeks

The number of weeks in a calendar year is 52. However, the total working weeks figure will vary based on your specific work schedule. If you work a traditional Monday to Friday job, you’ll have weekends off, meaning each working week is 5 days long. Paid leave, such as PTO (paid time off), sick leave, and vacation days, should also be subtracted to get a precise count of your actual working weeks.

Public and bank holidays

In the UK, there are typically 8 public holidays and bank holidays like New Year’s Day and Christmas Day. As these are days you won't be required to work, we remove them from the count of working weeks. In certain years, there might be an extra day or additional day granted for special occasions, like a national celebration or commemoration.

Annual leave

Your entitlement to annual leave will influence the number of working weeks in the year. A standard full-time employment contract should include around 28 days of paid leave, which equates to 5.6 weeks off including bank holidays. This leave decreases the number of weeks in which you actually work. Remember, every company has different policies, and some might offer more generous leave allowances.

Keep in mind that during a leap year, February has an extra day, which may slightly adjust the total count of annual working days but not the total number of working weeks.

Comparing UK workweeks with other countries

In the UK, a typical workweek for full-time employees spans Monday to Friday, encompassing 37 to 40 hours. Many of your compatriots adhere to the higher end, sealing it at 40 hours.

How does this compare to other nations? Well, if you peek over to our European neighbours, you'll find a varied range. For instance, the Netherlands flaunts one of the shortest workweeks averaging at about 30 hours, which might lead to a better work-life balance. Elsewhere, as you might expect, high-income countries like Germany and Denmark, have an average workweek of around a cosy 34 to 35 hours.

Part-time roles, naturally, entail fewer hours, tailored around the worker’s needs and company policies. This flexibility is mirrored in several countries, underpinning the growing emphasis on balancing one's professional and personal life.

Around the globe, countries with more rigorous work cultures, like in parts of East Asia, employees often take longer workweeks. In contrast, some developing regions see a wide spectrum, from much shorter to far longer hours, depending on economic structures and labour laws. Egypt, Gambia, Mauritania and Burkina Faso are highest on the scale, averaging over 50 hours per week.

Your experience as an average employee in the UK generally offers a decent balance between work and leisure, not straying too far from the international average. Thankfully you get a decent two weekend days off, securing some well-deserved rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the typical number of work weeks in a UK year, accounting for public holidays?

In the UK, you usually have 52 work weeks in a year; however, this number adjusts when accounting for public holidays, where typically 8 days are given off. This slight reduction can mean you can effectively work around 50 weeks annually, assuming you take all public holidays as leave. But if you worked the year without taking any annual leave, you’d be a bit mad.

Can you legally work all 52 weeks of the year without a break?

Legally, you're entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave per year. While you aren't mandated to take this leave, it's definitely not recommended for your health and well-being. If you’re thinking of doing this to roll over your allowance and use your paid holidays next year, be careful. Most employers only let you carry over up to 1.6 weeks (11.2 days), and they’re not legally obliged to let you carry over any. It all depends on what’s in your employment contract.

Not enough people take their full allowance of leave, and employers should really encourage them to do so.

How do you calculate the total number of work weeks in a given year?

To determine the total number of work weeks in a year, start with the standard 52 weeks and then subtract any holiday entitlement, which typically includes annual leave and public holidays.

How many work weeks are in a month on average?

A month typically spans 4 to 4.5 work weeks, depending on the number of working days within that particular month. An average estimation would place this around 4.33 weeks per month.

What about four-day work weeks?

Some employers offer the choice to work four days a week, effectively reducing the amount of hours worked in total – sometimes for the same annual salary as a five-day week. This progressive scheduling method is gaining popularity in many companies after successful trial runs.

When calculating work weeks here, you’d treat it as part-time.

This means you’d have a potential total number of working days of 4 x 52 = 208. Working 20% fewer days means you’d accrue 20% less holiday allowance, amounting to 22.4 days per year.

208 - 22.4 = 185.6 working days, which divided by 4 equals 46.4.

So the answer is 46 - 47 working weeks.

How it’s divided through the year depends on which days you choose to have off, as well as if your day off coincides with bank holidays or not.