Michael Hayes was born in Barking, Essex, but was evacuated to Harrogate during the Second World War. Initially an theatrical actor, his first main role was in Falkland Cary's play Burning Gold, before becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
He first married in 1955 to actress Mary Chester, during which his daughter Alisoun was born. Once settled at the BBC (initially as a studio manager in the World Serivice), they divorced and he married Jane Phillips in 1963. Later, he became a floor manager for television productions, rising up the ranks to become a director. In 1971 he moved out of London into Kent with his family.
In 1978 he directed the Season 16 story The Androids of Tara, with initial misgivings over what he thought was merely "a children's show with dodgy effects". However, he agreed to do so due to his friendship with head of serials Graeme MacDonald and producer Graham Williams, and got on well with Tom Baker, the two becoming friends and leading to the director to work on two more stories, The Armageddon Factor and then the first story to utilise overseas locations, Paris in City of Death, during which he made a 'Hitchcock' appearance as the shifty-looking passenger wearing a cloth cap and carrying a metal case seen exiting the train at the Metro station Boissière after the Doctor and Romana; he also dubbed the voice of a gendarme who tells the Doctor that the Mona Lisa has been stolen.
Other works include Skorpion, All Creatures Great and Small, Prince Regent, The Standard, When the Boat Comes In, Rooms, The Onedin Line, Oil Strike North, Churchill's People, Play for Today, Thirty-Minute Theatre, The Sextet, Take Three Girls, Jenny IV, The Wednesday Play, The Promise, The Troubleshooters, The Jazz Age, Theatre 625, A Flea in Her Ear, Boy Meets Girl, Thirteen Against Fate, The Spies, Sherlock Holmes, Cluff, Detective, First Night, Maigret, BBC Sunday-Night Play, Moonstrike, A for Andromeda, An Age of Kings
He is survived by his three children, Alisoun, Kelly and Patrick, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.