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: 23 Feb 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Hello I have taken a job in a cafe I work 7.5 hours a day my employers said I am not entitled to a break I need my job what can I do
Jolly - 23-Feb-18 @ 8:13 PM
Russ - Your Question:
At times I have to work 7 hrs before I get a break my shifts can be 9am to 10pm a lot of the time is this ok

Our Response:
Under the European Time Directive, you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what your employer stipulates regarding the terms of your breaks. Some types of employment have certain rules in busy periods with regards to breaks, but in cases such as these, you should be able to take a break as near to your official breaktime as possible. If your employer is not keeping to the terms of your contract, then you should speak to your employer directly regarding this.
WelfareAtWork - 22-Feb-18 @ 12:11 PM
At times I have to work 7 hrs before I get a break my shifts can be 9am to 10pm a lot of the time is this ok
Russ - 20-Feb-18 @ 7:39 PM
KP - Your Question:
I'm 18 & I read that I wasn't suppose to work nothing but 48 hours a week & my job has been making me work "mandatory overtime" for about two months with nothing but one day off & my body can't really take 10 hours a day for 6 days my shift was suppose to be Mon-Thurs 6-4:30 I tired

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms and conditions of your contract, which you may wish to read again to see what you have agreed to in terms of overtime.
WelfareAtWork - 12-Feb-18 @ 12:14 PM
I'm 18 & I read that I wasn't suppose to work nothing but 48 hours a week & my job has been making me work "mandatory overtime" for about two months with nothing but one day off & my body can't really take 10 hours a day for 6 days my shift was suppose to be Mon-Thurs 6-4:30 I tired
KP - 10-Feb-18 @ 11:31 AM
J.R1267 - Your Question:
So I work at Mcdonalds in the uk and have done a long shift today; 11:15-9:15, I went on my break around 12:30/12:45ish and came back 45 minutes later 1:20ish I then still have 8 and a half hours (+-) left am I entitled to another 15/20 minute break? I have only just turnt 18 and have randomly got these long shifts I am constantly exhausted and my work/life balance isnt brilliantplease answer

Our Response:
As outlined in the article, 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. In light of this, you would have to read the terms of yoru contract which should spell out your breaktimes. However, if your employer has allowed you to work more than six hours without a break and has awarded your break near to the beginning of the shift, then they are acting out of the European Working Time Directive guildelines. Therefore, you would need to speak to your line manager directly in order to try to resolve the matter informally at first and if the situation continues, you can raise a grievance, please see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Feb-18 @ 12:26 PM
So i work at Mcdonalds in the uk and have done a long shift today; 11:15-9:15, i went on my break around 12:30/12:45ish and came back 45 minutes later 1:20ish i then still have 8 and a half hours (+-) left am i entitled to another 15/20 minute break? i have only just turnt 18 and have randomly got these long shifts i am constantly exhausted and my work/life balance isnt brilliant please answer
J.R1267 - 6-Feb-18 @ 12:28 AM
Flower- Your Question:
I work in retail and have been asked to not leave the premises on my unpaid lunch as I'm the only key holder/manager in that day? Is that allowed?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to find this out. Otherwise, you would have to agree this with your line manager. Your employer can request this where there is a necessity and you would agree between you. Most employees/employers do each other favours from time to time.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Feb-18 @ 3:51 PM
@DAYBREAK - wow, sounds pretty Dickensian to me. I can understand that your employer says you must go to the loo in your workbreak, but to hold it for two hours or more is unfair. You should all get together to complain and raise a grievance with your employer.
PaG - 5-Feb-18 @ 10:04 AM
firehomer - Your Question:
On an eight shower shift how much time am I allowed for showering before I go home.or do I have to shower in my own time

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions laid out in your contract. This should tell you whether you are allowed to shower in works or your own time.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Feb-18 @ 9:49 AM
on an eight shower shift how much time am I allowed for showering before I go home. or do I have to shower in my own time
firehomer - 4-Feb-18 @ 3:35 PM
My company has recently told us we cannot use the toilet between 8-9am12 to 2pm and 4 to 5 pm.It is a contact centre. I am paid for my time at work but to have control over my bodily functions is ridiculous. Not many of us are happy. Plus if it is busy and there is a queue with calls we cannot go during the 3 hours left.If we have to use the toilet due to medical conditions then we have to prove it and can use the loo. This doesnt sound right to me.We are hitting all targets but now they have raised them. Yes I want a new job but I want to know if this is legal?
DAYBREAK - 4-Feb-18 @ 1:15 PM
necklace - Your Question:
So I work 10 hours a day (paid) but I dont get a FULL 20 minute break. I am allowed to go for a cig break if the shop is empty but this is a very very quick break, I mean like two puffs and I have to put it out as someone ALWAYS comes unless the nice customer lets me finish. Not only this but the boss expects me to be at the shop 30 minutes earlier or 15 at the latest than my start time or the time I actually get paid from. So when I turn up at 9.57 like I did this morning (due to the fact I don't start to get paid until 10am) I get an abusive phone call effing and blinding because I'm late - I'm not late I'm just turning up at the time I get paid from. Working it out and losing 15 mins per day, which totals up to 1 hr as I do 4 days, works out at £390 before tax is a hell of a lot to lose. Can someone please advise me on the next step. Thank you. ??

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here .
WelfareAtWork - 2-Feb-18 @ 2:19 PM
I work in retail and have been asked to not leave the premises on my unpaid lunch as I'm the only key holder/manager in that day? Is that allowed?
Flower - 2-Feb-18 @ 2:03 PM
So I work 10 hours a day (paid) but I dont get a FULL 20 minute break. I am allowed to go for a cig break if the shop is empty but this is a very very quick break, I mean like two puffs and i have to put it out as someone ALWAYS comes unless the nice customer lets me finish. Not only this but the boss expects me to be at the shop 30 minutes earlier or 15 at the latest than my start time or the time I actually get paid from. So when I turn up at 9.57 like I did this morning (due to the fact I don't start to get paid until 10am) I get an abusive phone call effing and blinding because I'm late -I'm not late I'm just turning up at the time I get paid from. Working it out and losing 15 mins per day, which totals up to 1 hr as I do 4 days, works out at £390 before tax is a hell of a lot to lose. Can someone please advise me on the next step... Thank you. ??
necklace - 31-Jan-18 @ 6:19 PM
I work in the care sector (day centre services) from 9-4 ,we never get a rest period AWAYfrom our service users ,I know it's not legal but what can be done about it please
Carrie - 30-Jan-18 @ 12:34 PM
Your advice is actually factually incorrect, this is a common error in interpreting the regulations which are stated by Gov.UK as follows: "Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day, if they work more than 6 hours a day" This means that breaks are not totalled up as you state for every 6 hours but just apply for workers working more than that number of hours.You could for instance work 13 hours a day and your total entitlement would still be 20 minutes.
Keng82 - 16-Jan-18 @ 4:09 AM
Twinny - Your Question:
I have been offered a job some shifts will be from 7am-10pm. How many breaks will I be entitled to during that period

Our Response:
You would be entitled to two 20 minute breaks if you work over a 12 hour shift. But only one 20 minute break if you work a 12 hour shift and under. As specified in the article, you are entitled to one 20 minute break for every six hours you work. However, employers can vary this - this is the minimum requirement.
WelfareAtWork - 15-Jan-18 @ 2:25 PM
I have been offered a job some shifts will be from 7am-10pm. How many breaks will I be entitled to during that period
Twinny - 13-Jan-18 @ 12:11 PM
Monica- Your Question:
I work in warehouse. I picking 5h without any break. It's very hard job. Can they do like that? I know that students should have a break. I'm 30 years old.

Our Response:
If you are working in the UK (as this is a UK-based site with legislation on UK-based workplace laws), then as specified in the article, you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work.
WelfareAtWork - 12-Jan-18 @ 3:22 PM
Maria - Your Question:
I work 8hrs a day have had same start and finish time and have always had half hr breaks for the past two years iv worked at this place and have resently been told I have to include and extra hour break and I have to finish an hour later to make up for it and have been threatened that if I don’t take my extra hour break and or don’t stay the extra hour I will be deducted an hrs pay ie they will only pay me for 7hrs for 8hrs work if I don’t take this extra hour break. Can they do that? Live and work in uk london

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract, which should tell you what you have agreed to in terms of breaktimes at work.
WelfareAtWork - 12-Jan-18 @ 12:24 PM
I work 8hrs a day have had same start and finish time and have always had half hr breaks for the past two years iv worked at this place and have resently been told I have to include and extra hour break and I have to finish an hour later to make up for it and have been threatened that if I don’t take my extra hour break and or don’t stay the extra hour I will be deducted an hrs pay ie they will only pay me for 7hrs for 8hrs work if I don’t take this extra hour break. Can they do that? Live and work in uk london
Maria - 9-Jan-18 @ 7:53 PM
I work in warehouse. I picking 5h without any break. It's very hard job. Can they do like that? I know that students should have a break.I'm 30 years old.
Monica - 9-Jan-18 @ 11:21 AM
My employer in Ontario used to give us a free staff meal with our half hour unpaid but no more. They also got rid of the kick back or tip pooling for kitchen staff since the wage increase. I’ve recently found out they take a half hour off my pay once I have workedbetween 4.5 and 5 hours.Even if we work 4.6 or 4.8 hours. I thought they could only do this after 5 hours ?
Cook tommy - 7-Jan-18 @ 8:53 PM
Jane - Your Question:
The company I have worked for 4 years has always given a 1 hour lunch now out of the blue dropped this to 20 minutes, with no asking staff just telling us. Our contacts don't say anything about lunch breaks and we work 9-5 5 days a week. Can the company just drop our lunch times? I am now working extra hours each day in theory with no extra pay or holiday. Please advise

Our Response:
As specified in the article, when you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work - therefore your employer is working within the European Working Time Directive guidelines. If there is no clause in the contact regarding breaks or changes to contract, then your employer can make changes. Also, some contracts of employment contain a term or condition which allows your employer to make certain changes, please see link here . If you still have doubts regarding whether your employer has the right to change your hours, you should either speak with your union rep or give ACAS a call.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Jan-18 @ 10:47 AM
The company I have worked for 4 years has always given a 1 hour lunch now out of the blue dropped this to 20 minutes, with no asking staff just telling us. Our contacts don't say anything about lunch breaks and we work 9-5 5 days a week. Can the company just drop our lunch times? I am now working extra hours each day in theory with no extra pay or holiday. Please advise
Jane - 4-Jan-18 @ 10:50 AM
At my current place of employment (in the UK as a waitress/barmaid) we are sometimes made to work 12 hours shifts with no break. 6 hours with no break as well, what action can be taken against them due to having employee rights broken?
Tm5368 - 25-Dec-17 @ 5:43 PM
@TW - maybe your boss is making it difficult for employees to smoke. There's not much you can do except to speak to your employer directly and try to resolve the issues.
LuceNJ - 19-Dec-17 @ 11:34 AM
I work 12 hour shifts and have 2 x 15 minutebreaks and 1x 30 minute lunch.I chose to smoke during mine whereas others dont. I sigthe fire register when i leave for my hreaks but niw my boss is saying i need a memeber 9f stadf to countersign me out and in. There are rarely in the office so i could be waiting suptonan hour for my break. What can i do
TW - 18-Dec-17 @ 9:51 PM
Hunny - Your Question:
HiI have worked a solid 9 hours without a break, can my boss make me take 30 mins, id rather work straight through without a break.

Our Response:
Yes, your employer can make you take a break, as it is the law that your employer must give you a break of at least 20 minutes for every six hours you work.
WelfareAtWork - 15-Dec-17 @ 12:18 PM
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