Home > Working Rights > Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights?

Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 18 Aug 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Rest Break Rights Work Employer Working

Sometimes it can feel like your boss would just like you to keep working until you drop down but you are entitled to a certain amount of rest by law. Taking breaks actually increases your productivity so it helps your employer anyway. You are entitled to different things depending on your job and your age but it is important that you know what these are so that you can look after yourself and make sure your employer is abiding by regulations.

Rest Breaks – Your Rights

When you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. Your employer can tell you when to take it as long as it is taken in one block, is not at the beginning or end of your day and you are allowed to spend it off the premises. Workers that are under 18 are entitled to more and can take 30 minutes for every four and a half hours that they work.

Daily and Weekly Rest

As well as rules about how much rest you are allowed within the working day, there are also regulations about how much time you should be given between shifts. You have the right to have at least 11 hours off between working days with this rising to 12 hours if you are under 18. You also have the right to a ‘weekly rest’ of 24 hours or 48 hours within a two week period.

Working Time Regulations

Your contract should tell you what hours you are required to work but if it doesn’t then there are working time regulations to cover you. You cannot be made to work more than an average of 48 hours per week unless you want to. Also, as a full time employee you have the right to 24 paid holiday days a year. Your employer can tell you when to take it and may include bank holidays, but they must pay your for it.

Exceptions to the Regulations

As some jobs just don’t fit into these regulations very easily, there are some situations when they don’t apply in the same way. For example, if you work in the security industry or work such as medical which needs 24 hour staffing. You are still entitled to rest but just in a different way. You get ‘compensatory rest’ with the idea being that everyone should have at least 90 hours off a week. There are also specific rules for some industries such as mobile workers, the armed forces, and the medical and police professions.

Your employer cannot make you work constantly without a break and under the working time regulations have to give you a certain amount of time off. You must be allowed to take at least a 20 minute break if you are working six hours or more and are also entitled to 11 hours off between working days. On top of this you must be given paid holiday time. There are some exceptions to these rules and you employer may also be more generous so make sure you check your contract.

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My contract says that I must work a minimum of 4.5 hours per day and that I MUST take a break of at least 30 mins between the hours of 12pm and 2pm. The job is flexitime which suited me to do around the school hours and I generally get to work about 09:20 and leave about 14:30. Any extra I do over the 4.5 hours (less the 30 mins enforced UNPAID time) I get as TOIL. Is this normal and can I dispute it? I have not yet ever actually taken the 30 mins as I sit at my desk to eat my sandwich and I feel that they are just getting free time from me. Most of the other staff work full time and they are only forced to take the 30 mins unpaid if they work over 6 hours.
SusieQ - 18-Aug-17 @ 10:47 AM
I work 8, 9 and 12 hour shifts in the security sector, we were entitled to an hours unpaid break, but now with no notice we have been told that 20 mins of the hour is now paid and 40 mins is unpaid, so if we are tasked to an incident while we are on our break, we have to attend that incident right away, but they are not telling us what part of the hour is the paid 20 min break, therefore they have us over a barrel so to speak, because that means we can be tasked to an incident at any time in that hour. ??
Binlyd - 17-Aug-17 @ 8:00 PM
I have an unpaid 1 hr break that is removed during overtime pay hrs can I be expected to take this during basic hrs or refuse and take at equivalent pay rate ie overtime rate when it is removed
Mark - 17-Aug-17 @ 9:01 AM
My question is I work 6 hours a day get 20 mins break but apparently I'm not untitled to a hot meal from the home
Hayles - 15-Aug-17 @ 2:44 PM
carl13 - Your Question:
I work 12 hours shift and only get half hour breaks and on my time sheet (legal document) I state I have half hour breaks and they still dock me an hour knowing I have half hour and I work in a care home

Our Response:
If you are being stopped one hour's wages and only being given one half hour break, you should speak to your employer directly regarding this matter.
WelfareAtWork - 10-Aug-17 @ 1:41 PM
Dan - Your Question:
I reckon the laws on this is wrong. 20 mins break per every six hours is understandable for someone who works on their arse but I spend 8 hours on my feet. The law should be different depending on their type of work.

Our Response:
It's really up to the employer's discretion. Some employers will keep work breaks to the minimum European Working Time Directive rules, while others are a bit more sympathetic and will offer longer breaks to employees who are employed to do heavier or more strenuous work.
WelfareAtWork - 10-Aug-17 @ 12:13 PM
I work in a restaurant on an 8 hr shift finishing at 11pm and then have to be back at work for 8am. Sometimes I have to do 9am-11pm to then return to work for 9am. I'm very confused if this is actually legal. I'm exhausted
Tired - 10-Aug-17 @ 10:15 AM
i work 12 hours shift and only get half hour breaks and on my time sheet (legal document) I state i have half hour breaks and they still dock me an hour knowing i have half hour and i work in a care home
carl13 - 9-Aug-17 @ 11:17 PM
I reckon the laws on this is wrong. 20 mins break per every six hours is understandable for someone who works on their arse but i spend 8 hours on my feet. The law should be different depending on their type of work.
Dan - 9-Aug-17 @ 11:31 AM
ClarenceGas- Your Question:
I work 8 hours per day 7.50-4.30 and am entitled to a 40 minute unpaid lunch break. Our boss is now telling us that we will no longer be holding our 1 hour staff meetings during working hours, they will be held during our 40 minute unpaid lunch breaks. We get no other breaks throughout the day. Can they do this or do we have the right to refuse to attend and take our breaks instead?

Our Response:
Unless you agree to this new arrangement, your employer cannot enforce this. It doesn’t count as a rest break if an employer says an employee has to effectively work through it, please see link here. You may wish to speak to your employer directly about this and/or give ACAS a call to further explore your options.
WelfareAtWork - 8-Aug-17 @ 3:30 PM
I work 8 hours per day 7.50-4.30 and am entitled to a 40 minute unpaid lunch break. Our boss is now telling us that we will no longer be holding our 1 hour staff meetings during working hours, they will be held during our 40 minute unpaid lunch breaks. We get no other breaks throughout the day. Can they do this or do we have the right to refuse to attend and take our breaks instead?
ClarenceGas - 8-Aug-17 @ 12:11 PM
Cher - Your Question:
I work 2-10pm shifts at work and because the shop is busy between 5-7pm, all staff are sent for breaks before 5pm. This means that I can sometimes start at 2pm and be sent on my break as early as 3:30pm - therefore I have no break between 4-10pm. Based on this article, would these breaks be considered to be at the start of the shift? If so, what can be done about it? I have tried to explain to my manager that this is too early for a break but he insists that all staff need to be on the shop floor during the busy evening period.

Our Response:
You would need to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to find the answers regarding this matter. Any person is not allowed by law to work more than a six-hour shift without a break, so you employer is within the guidelines. There are particular employers who can opt out of these rules at busy times. You can see more via the ACAS link here .
WelfareAtWork - 7-Aug-17 @ 3:34 PM
I work 2-10pm shifts at work and because the shop is busy between 5-7pm, all staff are sent for breaks before 5pm. This means that I can sometimes start at 2pm and be sent on my break as early as 3:30pm - therefore I have no break between 4-10pm. Based on this article, would these breaks be considered to be at the start of the shift? If so, what can be done about it? I have tried to explain to my manager that this is too early for a break but he insists that all staff need to be on the shop floor during the busy evening period.
Cher - 6-Aug-17 @ 12:58 PM
Myself - Your Question:
Someone I know worked an eight and half hour trial shift at a cafe with no breaks at all. It was an exhausting day in a very busy cafe. When she enquired with other members of staff she was told no one gets any breaks ever not even lunch breaks. how can they get away with this

Our Response:
As specified in the article, according to the European Working Time Directive, 'when you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. Your employer can tell you when to take it as long as it is taken in one block, is not at the beginning or end of your day and you are allowed to spend it off the premises. Workers that are under 18 are entitled to more and can take 30 minutes for every four and a half hours that they work.' If the workers have contracts, information on the breaks the employee is allowed should be contained within the contract and be in line with the directive. If they are not, then the employee has grounds for complaint and to request a break.
WelfareAtWork - 1-Aug-17 @ 10:37 AM
Hi I work 9 hrs 15 in a care setting. I am alone on the night shift and cant leave the building yet my employer deducts a half hour break from my pay?? for breaks. During my shift I have to answer doors, offer assitance to the residents and monitor CCTV whenever this is called for. There is no opportunity for an uninterupted break unless I was to leave the building...which i cant. Can they still deduct for break?
Wil - 31-Jul-17 @ 1:53 PM
Someone I know worked an eight and half hour trial shift at a cafe with no breaks at all. It was an exhausting day in a very busy cafe. When she enquired with other members of staff she was told no one gets any breaks ever not even lunch breaks.how can they get away with this
Myself - 31-Jul-17 @ 12:30 AM
ammu - Your Question:
Hi thrI m working 40 hours week and I been working more than 14 month don't paid any tea break.but recently I asked manager about my tea break and they ready to pay now.but my question is ? Is there any chance I will get 14 month unpaid tea break ? looking forward for your reply Thanks

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract. Your tea-break can be paid or unpaid, it is at your employer's discretion.
WelfareAtWork - 28-Jul-17 @ 3:53 PM
Hownow - Your Question:
I work 8 1/2 hours a day. I have half a hour break unpaid should I get any paid break ?

Our Response:
Whether your break is paid or unpaid is at the discretion of your employer.
WelfareAtWork - 28-Jul-17 @ 11:33 AM
Hi thr I m working 40 hours week and I been working more than 14 month don't paid any tea break.but recently I asked manager about my tea break and they ready to pay now.but my question is ? Is there any chance I will get 14 month unpaid tea break ? looking forward for your reply Thanks
ammu - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:50 PM
Alana- Your Question:
Hi iam contracted to work 6hrs per day. I sometimes work later as we have flexible working. I have now been told that if I work over 6hrs I need to take 30 minutes break even if iam only working on 10 minutes? Can I be forced to take a break if I do r want one (or can they automatically deduct time from me) my contract does not state iam entitled to a break and it is my choice to work on?

Our Response:
Yes. The Working Time Directive rules that every employer who works more than six hours is entitled to a break of 20 minutes. Your employer can enforce this.
WelfareAtWork - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:45 AM
Em - Your Question:
I work near to 7 hours without a break in hospitality my rota says 4-close and the kitchen shuts at 10, so we could be there for 7 or 8 hours without a break and our entitled meal. What rights do I have to confront my boss about this?

Our Response:
In the first instance, you would need to read the terms and conditions of your contract and if the terms contradict with what is written, then you can speak directly to your boss regarding this. However, as specified in the article you are entitled to one 20 minute break for every six hours or more you work. Please see link here, as there are exceptions in some industries that can offer compensatory rest as near to the time of your original break as possible.
WelfareAtWork - 27-Jul-17 @ 11:42 AM
I work 8 1/2 hours a day. I have half a hour break unpaid should I get any paid break ?
Hownow - 26-Jul-17 @ 9:34 PM
Hi iam contracted to work 6hrs per day. I sometimes work later as we have flexible working. I have now been told that if I work over 6hrs I need to take 30 minutes break even if iam only working on 10 minutes? Can I be forced to take a break if I do r want one (or can they automatically deduct time from me) my contract does not state iam entitled to a break and it is my choice to work on?
Alana - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:55 PM
I work near to 7 hours without a break in hospitality my rota says 4-close and the kitchen shuts at 10, so we could be there for 7 or 8 hours without a break and our entitled meal. What rights do I have to confront my boss about this?
Em - 25-Jul-17 @ 2:54 PM
I work 6 days a week 8:30-3:00 but am not allowed to take a lunch til 2 or 2:30 can my boss make me take a lunch if it's 30 mind before I'm off. When I spoke to my manager about my concern she basicay told me if I spoke out I would be fired because I'mlate to work frequently.And that the owner wouldn't want me to work for her if I made it known that I wanted a break before the end of my shift.
Dani - 25-Jul-17 @ 7:18 AM
My company I work for im.a night carer for the elderly with dementia r changing my hours they say that we have to work to a 6 day week plus 12hour shifts so that means fromvworkibg 30hoyrs I week in bow working 48hiur for 3weeks then 36hours for 3weeks we cannot leave the building on r break but we don't get pages for rest break as I only live a few doors away I wanted to go home on my rest break but there r saying it will leave the building short staffed will they have to pay me if I have to stay there
Sue - 25-Jul-17 @ 5:35 AM
Ali - Your Question:
I work 9 and a half hour shift on a sunday , told to take break at 2 1/2 or 3 hours into shift which means I then work another 6 1/2 or 6 hours without a break ! Is this legal?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you should not work more than six hours without a break. You should speak to your employer directly about this.
WelfareAtWork - 24-Jul-17 @ 3:46 PM
I work 9 and a half hour shift on a sunday , told to take break at 2 1/2 or 3 hours into shift which means I then work another 6 1/2 or 6 hours without a break ! Is this legal?
Ali - 23-Jul-17 @ 11:57 AM
Michelle - Your Question:
My current employer of 10 years all of a sudden wants me to either start work 15 minutes earlier (claiming flexi) to cover phone lines, or stay 15 mins later (claiming flexi) or take a reduction in my hours so that I am able to take phone calls from the time I start work and be paid from. It takes 10-15 minutes to load up all the systems to be able to deal with calls.I have child care commitments in the mornings and after school so can't come in any earlier or stay later. and a reduction in my hours would have inplications on my mortgage.Where do I stand?I'm worried they'll transfer me to an awful department as I cant "fulfil business needs."

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms and conditions of your current contract and whether it allows your employer to change the terms. If it does, then you would have to speak to your employer directly about this in order to try to resolve this issue between you. If your contract doesn't allow a change in terms, then you can ask to stay under the terms of your original contract and your employer would have to allow this, otherwise you would have recourse to complain.
WelfareAtWork - 21-Jul-17 @ 2:46 PM
My current employer of 10 years all of a sudden wants me to either start work 15 minutes earlier (claiming flexi) to cover phone lines, or stay 15 mins later (claiming flexi) or take a reduction in my hours so that I am able to take phone calls from the time I start work and be paid from. It takes 10-15 minutes to load up all the systems to be able to deal with calls. I have child care commitments in the mornings and after school so can't come in any earlier or stay later. and a reduction in my hours would have inplications on my mortgage. Where do I stand? I'm worried they'll transfer me to an awful department as I cant "fulfil business needs."
Michelle - 21-Jul-17 @ 12:47 PM
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