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: 29 Nov 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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[Add a Comment]
Linda - Your Question:
My son signed a contract at KFC when he was 17, started work at 18, not paid for break on an 8 hour shift but told can't leave the premises, also no where to sit to eat his sandwiches, so goes without, is this right? Also been made to work only weekends when he said wanted to work between college, also not given a copy of his contract. Does he have any rights??? Thanks a worried parent.

Our Response:
His only rights are to negotiate these matters directly with his line manager. Before he does so, he should read the terms and conditions of his employment contract which will tell him what he is entitled to.
WelfareAtWork - 8-Dec-17 @ 3:54 PM
Linkis - Your Question:
My friend works in factory as agency worker. She starts at 9pm and finish at 6am and she told me she never have a break. They only eat inside the factory, not in canteen when production on the line is changing. What can be done about that?

Our Response:
If your friend is living in the UK, as specified 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.' Your friend would need to look at the terms and conditions of her employment contract which should outline when your friend can take her break. If her contract and the reality of her employer allowing her break do not match up, then she would need to pull her employer up about this. If her employer ignores the request, then her option would be to raise a grievance in work, please see link here .
WelfareAtWork - 30-Nov-17 @ 12:54 PM
My friend works in factory as agency worker. She starts at 9pm and finish at 6am and she told me she never have a break. They only eat inside the factory, not in canteen when production on the line is changing. What can be done about that?
Linkis - 29-Nov-17 @ 9:05 PM
My son signed a contract at KFC when he was 17, started work at 18, not paid for break on an 8 hour shift but told can't leave the premises, also no where to sit to eat his sandwiches, so goes without, is this right? Also been made to work only weekends when he said wanted to work between college, also not given a copy of his contract. Does he have any rights??? Thanks a worried parent.
Linda - 26-Nov-17 @ 6:10 PM
During work time on late closes at my work place team members are made to have break at 4pm when the work day starts at 2pm. after that its just being on your feet all the way to 10:30pm without a short break is this legal.
Ladyane - 22-Nov-17 @ 11:57 PM
I work 12 1/2 shifts mostly on nights. I can never have a break as I cannot palm the bleep and mobile phone off into anyone. Can they be made to pay my 30 min break that we can never have?
Asimplewish - 21-Nov-17 @ 9:24 PM
Rak - Your Question:
Hi, I work in pvt ltd company 8am to 6.30 pm. am contract to this company. is it correct. we should be here by 7.30pm.

Our Response:
If your contract says you should be there at 7.30am and you have signed your contract, then you have agreed to this. However, you would have to speak to your employer directly about this, if you feel you are being treated unfairly. If you have tried solving the 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 - 21-Nov-17 @ 2:36 PM
I work in childcare and most times when I start either 10.30 to 6.30 pm my boss makes me take a 10 min break less then an hour into my shift and then lunch another hour later is this law or can she just choose whatever and I have no say please any info would be great thanks . Same as if I'm 6.30 am to 2.30 Pm and 9 to 5 .
Vicko - 21-Nov-17 @ 4:26 AM
Looby - Your Question:
I posted this same question on 12.11.17 but it seems to have been missed.I work 2-10 2 days a week I get stopped 15 mins and 30 mins each day for breaks.should my contract be 16 hrs per week or 14.5 hours.I think since I have to be there at 2 and cannot leave before 10 it should be 16 with the breaks stipulated and be paid 14.5.manager saying my contract is 14.5.

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether your breaks are paid or unpaid. If your breaks are paid then the contract would be 16 hours per week. If your breaks are unpaid, then your contract would be extract any unpaid breaks from your hourly working day.
WelfareAtWork - 20-Nov-17 @ 12:02 PM
I posted this same question on 12.11.17 but it seems to have been missed... I work 2-10 2 days a week I get stopped 15 mins and 30 mins each day for breaks....should my contract be 16 hrs per week or 14.5 hours......I think since I have to be there at 2 and cannot leave before 10 it should be 16 with the breaks stipulated and be paid 14.5.....manager saying my contract is 14.5......
Looby - 19-Nov-17 @ 4:30 PM
Hi, I work in pvt ltd company 8am to 6.30 pm .. am contract to this company.. is it correct. we should be here by 7.30pm..
Rak - 17-Nov-17 @ 10:59 AM
Jay - Your Question:
My contract stipulates an hour lunch break (I work 9 - 5). It also says I can be required to work hours in excess of my contractual hours if necessary. My employer is arranging mandatory 30 minutes training sessions at lunchtime. No time in lieu. Can they do this?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see whether this complies. If your contract says you should have an hour lunchbreak, then you are entitled to request this. But, you would have to negotiate this directly with your employer. If the other staff feel the same, you may wish to raise this verbally or in writing as a group.
WelfareAtWork - 16-Nov-17 @ 2:19 PM
My contract stipulates an hour lunch break (I work 9 - 5). It also says I can be required to work hours in excess of my contractual hours if necessary. My employer is arranging mandatory 30 minutes training sessions at lunchtime. No time in lieu. Can they do this?
Jay - 15-Nov-17 @ 11:26 PM
I work 2pm untill 10pm 2 days a week I get stopped 15 mins and 30mins breakshould my contract read 16 hours or 14.5 hours per week
Looby - 12-Nov-17 @ 8:28 PM
JB - Your Question:
I work 6 hours a day 2 days a week Am I right in thinking I do not have to take a break?

Our Response:
Unless you work more than six hours, you do not officially need to take a break. However, whether you take a break or not is generally dicated to by the terms of your contract. If your contract says you are due a break and you don't want one, you would have to speak to your employer directly. However, your employer might say it's company policy in which case you would have to keep to taking the break.
WelfareAtWork - 9-Nov-17 @ 11:13 AM
I work 6 hours a day 2 days a weekAm I right in thinking I do not have to take a break?
JB - 8-Nov-17 @ 1:01 PM
AYA - Your Question:
Am I able to put myself break if my employer refuses to give me one?

Our Response:
If your contract allows you a break, then you are entitled to take a break. However, going on your break without authority would not be a good move. You should negotiate your breaktime allowance with your employer and in line with what the terms and conditions of what your contract allows.
WelfareAtWork - 7-Nov-17 @ 3:07 PM
Am I able to put myself break if my employer refuses to give me one?
AYA - 5-Nov-17 @ 6:30 PM
Jules - Your Question:
HiI've worked in the same office for ten years - four years ago they asked me to increase my working hours to 8am to 4 pm - my contract states this but no mention of breaks paid or unpaid - I get paid for the hours I'm in the office I.e 8 per day. I don't take 'official breaks but we have coffee and eat at desk. My boss is now saying that I should take my breaks but not be paid for them. I feel that as this has not been formally discussed or mentioned in my contract that the breaks should be paid. Whay do you think.

Our Response:
Usually a contract would mentioned break time allowances under the European Working Time Directive rules. You don't actually have to agree to this change in contract and you can refuse, especially if it amounts to a reduction in wages. You would need to speak to your employer directly and if you don't agree with the changes, you can raise a grievance, please see link here. Before you do any of this, you may wish to give ACAS a call in order to fully explore your options.
WelfareAtWork - 31-Oct-17 @ 12:51 PM
Hi I've worked in the same office for ten years - four years ago they asked me to increase my working hours to 8am to 4 pm - my contract states this but no mention of breaks paid or unpaid - I get paid for the hours I'm in the office I.e 8 per day. I don't take 'official breaks but we have coffee and eat at desk. My boss is now saying that I should take my breaks but not be paid for them.I feel that as this has not been formally discussed or mentioned in my contract that the breaks should be paid.Whay do you think.
Jules - 30-Oct-17 @ 7:14 PM
Hello, I am wondering if there is something I can do about the recent change in the office lunch hours, reducing 1hr lunches to 45min and getting 1hr less on fridays. This does not suit me because of a whole list of reasons and anxiety. When I raised this with HR, I was told to draft this as a "suggestion" and it never had a formal review, Director informally told me I would have no basis to request change back (i.e. considered flexible work?), I have no dependents to justify this. I do however study every second day until 10pm and it puts pressure on me, not being able to take walks and spend time with colleagues and rest my eyes. I had a question raised by him though if there is a reason why I "can't" do this but I don't want to make him aware of my IBS issues that are affected by this together with other factors, because I'm embarrassed- or should I do this to have grounds for flexible work request?
Miss D - 27-Oct-17 @ 11:31 AM
I have an hour a day deducted for breaks, I work 47 hrs a week but only get paid for 42I'm lucky if I get 20 mins uninterrupted, hr have said if the shop is quiet ie. No customers around then this counts as a break. Is this correct?
Carpet88 - 26-Oct-17 @ 10:12 AM
Thank you, I only have an offer letter. I have never had a contract...I started to work 1.3.17 So I cannot check, offer letter just said 40hrs per week. I have asked twice forva contract but not received one
Hardpressed worker - 25-Oct-17 @ 6:00 PM
Hi, i work for an islamic media company in London. On my lunch break i went to lunch with a female colleague. i then get a call from the HR Manager and she asks me to come to her office. She says, that it has been "reported" that i and the colleague in question were seen together at lunch. She says that 'free-mixing' is not allowed at the company. is what i do on my lunch break and off company premises my concern and not theirs? What legal right do they have to enforce who i go to lunch with? i feel quite violated by this experience.
JackJ - 24-Oct-17 @ 5:31 PM
Hi - Your Question:
A 16 year old apprentice generally works 9:00 - 5:00 and gets 30 minutes lunch break. But she is then told she has to stay on till 5:30 is this allowed and she’s not paid till 5:30. So although she is getting a lunch break she then has to make the 30 minutes up.

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of her employment contract which should say; she works 9.- 5.30pm with a 30 minute unpaid break. This is perfectly legal. If the contract says 9 - 5pm including a 30 minute unpaid lunchbreak, her employer should factor this into the middle of her day without asking her to work any overtime to make up for having a lunch. I hope this makes sense.
WelfareAtWork - 23-Oct-17 @ 3:16 PM
Hard pressed worker - Your Question:
I have a 40hr contract. I get to eat lunch but do not have any break away from the job, ie I am on duty with pupils whilst I eat. By law should I havs a 20min break away from the pupils?

Our Response:
Have a look at the terms and conditions of your employment contract and your answer to how long your allocated break is will be contained within. As specifed in the article, when you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. Therefore, whatever break is contained in your contract, you can insist you take it, away from your job, which means away from your pupils (unless stated otherwise).
WelfareAtWork - 23-Oct-17 @ 12:20 PM
I have a 40hr contract. I get to eat lunch but do not have any break away from the job, ie I am on duty with pupils whilst I eat. By law should I havs a 20min break away from the pupils?
Hard pressed worker - 22-Oct-17 @ 3:28 PM
A 16 year old apprentice generally works 9:00 - 5:00 and gets 30 minutes lunch break. But she is then told she has to stay on till 5:30 is this allowed and she’s not paid till 5:30. So although she is getting a lunch break she then has to make the 30 minutes up.
Hi - 21-Oct-17 @ 9:30 PM
victoria - Your Question:
I work 9 hours a day with a half hour unpaid break is this legal.

Our Response:
It is legal. As specified in the article, you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. This means until you work over 12 hours, your employer does not have to offer you a second work break of 20 minutes.
WelfareAtWork - 20-Oct-17 @ 3:04 PM
I work 9 hours a day with a half hour unpaid break is this legal.
victoria - 19-Oct-17 @ 8:34 PM
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