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Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 15 Oct 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]
Hi. I work 40+ hour weeks at a bar. I am on my feet for most of the day, some days working a 10 hour shift on my feet. I was only allowed a 20 minute break. Am I entitled to more of a break considering I am always on my feet?
Alan - 15-Oct-18 @ 8:16 PM
Hi. Iwork in factory Shift 4 days work 4 d off 11 hours a day. I have two 30 minutes break. I am asking for information at what times of the day there should be breaks. my manager sends us on a break often at 6.20-6.30 am. I often have the first break at 10.30 am and the second break at 11.30 am. what should be the minimum time between breaks? and whether the manager can send me a break at 6.30 am when I start work at 6 am and finish at 5pm
Kasiura - 11-Oct-18 @ 7:47 AM
I work 5 hours 11am to 4pm, 4 days a week, am I entitled to a break during my day
iwhrt45 - 7-Oct-18 @ 10:33 AM
My fiance works 8-12 hours and 6 days a week. His only off day is Sunday when the company is closed. He is often wore out and they make him work overtime.
FedUpFiancee - 3-Oct-18 @ 9:56 PM
I work 7.5 hours a day in a school.When should I be allowed to take a break?Currently we have to work for 5 3/4 hours straight before we are allowed a break, is this legal?I cannot last this time without a drink or visiting the bathroom. Help!
Cye - 2-Oct-18 @ 9:08 PM
Can someone clarify allowance of breaks for working alone on long shifts. I work in a 24 hour petrol station, alone, so cant shut down & take breaks. Does this law cover that too or is it a different thins?
Stratters - 30-Sep-18 @ 9:47 AM
I'm under a 3 month probationary period at a care home morning or afternoon s shifts but I'm not entitled to a break till end of my 6-7hour shift is this right? I'm not happy
Apes - 22-Sep-18 @ 2:07 PM
Can I be sent on a 45mins break after only working 1hour and then sent home for refusing to?.
M - 19-Sep-18 @ 4:34 PM
I work at a hotel and am under contract for 40 hours a week, i work 8 hour shifts, my manager tells me if i take a 30 minute break i have to stay an extra 30 minutes to make up for my break. Is that legal?
daman - 18-Sep-18 @ 11:13 PM
Scunnered - Your Question:
I work 15 hours a week. Monday to Friday in one 3 hour shift each day always at the same time 9am - 12 noon. My employer wants to change these times so that I will do shifts of 1 hour at a time at 3 points during the day (9am for 1 hour then 12 noon for 1 hour and then 2 pm for 1 hour) thus absorbing my whole day but for only 3 hours paid per day. This is really inconvenient as I have other paid work in the afternoons with another employer. Can they force me to do this?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the terms and conditions of your employment contract. You can see more about changes of contract terms via the link here.
WelfareAtWork - 18-Sep-18 @ 3:17 PM
I work 15 hours a week.Monday to Friday in one 3 hour shift each day always at the same time 9am - 12 noon.My employer wants to change these times so that I will do shifts of 1 hour at a time at 3 points during the day (9am for 1 hour then 12 noon for 1 hour and then 2 pm for 1 hour) thus absorbing my whole day but for only 3 hours paid per day.This is really inconvenient as I have other paid work in the afternoons with another employer.Can they force me to do this?
Scunnered - 18-Sep-18 @ 1:23 PM
Speedy0808 - Your Question:
I work at the most illeagally run petrol station ever. It's single manned meaning I cannot get a break at any point. I'm forced to work shifts I don't want. I'm contracted for 16 hours but told I have to work 5 days a week. They make me work all shift patterns, nights days and pm shifts as well as the weekend all.whikst I have 3 small children. They take illeagal deductions from my wage. And are all round criminals. I'm on the verge of walking out. I've been doing this for 4 years now

Our Response:
In the first instance, you would have to look at the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see what you are entitled to in terms of breaktimes and shift patterns. The link here should help you further. If it doesn't answer your questions and you still think your employer is not honouring your contract, then you should gaive Acas a call.
WelfareAtWork - 17-Sep-18 @ 12:58 PM
I work at the most illeagally run petrol station ever.It's single manned meaning I cannot get a break at any point.I'm forced to work shifts I don't want.I'm contracted for 16 hours but told I have to work 5 days a week.They make me work all shift patterns, nights days and pm shifts as well as the weekend all.whikst I have 3 small children. They take illeagal deductions from my wage. And are all round criminals. I'm on the verge of walking out.I've been doing this for 4 years now
Speedy0808 - 15-Sep-18 @ 2:56 PM
i work in a store and if i'm on my own i don't get a break, i also worked a few 10 hours on my own in a big store and don't get no breaks is that legal?
baileys - 14-Sep-18 @ 8:44 PM
Aaron - Your Question:
I work 10 hour shifts.What breaks should I get.atm we are getting 2x15mins

Our Response:
If you are working a 10 hour shift, then your employer need only offer one x 20 minute break.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Sep-18 @ 11:56 AM
I work 10 hour shifts..What breaks should I get..atm we are getting 2x15mins
Aaron - 5-Sep-18 @ 7:11 AM
Csil - Your Question:
Hi , If I working 12,5 hours night shift and (3 days a week)How many minutes break per shift can take out ?We getting just 30 mins ,is it good ? Thanks

Our Response:
If you work over 12 hours as a shift, then you should be awarded two twenty minute breaks under the European Working Time Directive. You may also wish to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see whether you have signed to opt out of this arrangement.
WelfareAtWork - 3-Sep-18 @ 2:18 PM
Hi , If I working 12,5 hours night shift and (3 days a week) How many minutes break per shift can take out? We getting just 30 mins ,is it good ? Thanks
Csil - 31-Aug-18 @ 1:26 PM
Have done 12 hours night shift lone working and an hour break deducted. Their work night policy stated that if staff found absent from premises or sleeping will be dismiss. Yet an hour deducted for break.
None - 31-Aug-18 @ 8:41 AM
I work in a care home working either 6.25 hour shifts or 12.25 hour shifts. We used to get a 15 minute break if we worked 6.25 hours and a 30 minute lunch break on a 12.25 hour shift. A few months ago we were told that we had to use our 15 minute breaks to complete paperwork. I argued that if we were completing paperwork it was not actually a rest break and was completely ignored and told we had to work through it because our breaks are paid. They have now said that we have to spend all of our breaks with the residents while completing paperwork and even on our lunch break we have to continue answering bells and helping residents. There is nothing written about breaks on my contract but I feel this is very unfair. Is there anything i can I do or is this considered reasonable?
Mel - 26-Aug-18 @ 9:11 PM
if i have a 8 hour shift, can my employer force me to take my break one hour into my shift? so then i’m forced to work 6.5 hours straight after. or can i then demand to have another break after 6 hours? i get so tired when they make me take my break early, please help. thanks!
earlybreak - 19-Aug-18 @ 7:54 PM
I've been told that my normal hours are 8-5pm. I have a requirement to start earlier sometimes and that this would mean finishing earlier. I have to remain on callout til 5. Can I take my break after coming home but whilst on callout. Ie. Start at 7am,arrive home at 3pm,take 20m break and continue on call out til 5pm
Don - 18-Aug-18 @ 9:04 AM
Overworked - Your Question:
Hi there I’ve been working 8 hour shifts in a single manned petrol station for 7 months and haven’t received one break where I can leave the site or even just get 20 minutes to myself. What can I do?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see what your break allocation is. If your contract contradicts your allowance you can speak to your employer directly regarding this matter. If your employer doesn't stick to the terms of your contract, please see the link here .
WelfareAtWork - 16-Aug-18 @ 1:54 PM
Don - Your Question:
All the regulations state that I'm entitled to a break but what if I don't want to, can my employer make me take a break. I work as a field engineer between sites so don't really have an opportunity to have a break that is away from my van or place of work?

Our Response:
If you work more than six hours in any one shift, it is compulsary that you have a break.
WelfareAtWork - 16-Aug-18 @ 12:20 PM
Hi there I’ve been working 8 hour shifts in a single manned petrol station for 7 months and haven’t received one break where I can leave the site or even just get 20 minutes to myself. What can I do?
Overworked - 16-Aug-18 @ 6:13 AM
All the regulations state that I'm entitled to a break but what if I don't want to, can my employer make me take a break. I work as a field engineer between sites so don't really have an opportunity to have a break that is away from my van or place of work?
Don - 15-Aug-18 @ 9:23 PM
Dazza - Your Question:
My company got taken over by a different company just over a year ago. I still have my old contract which stated I get paid for breaks. My new company has now come to the decision they would not like to pay me for these breaks. Is there anything I can do or say or do I just have to accept it? :( please advise. thanks

Our Response:
You can see what changes your employer can make via the link here . You may also wish to give Acas a call.
WelfareAtWork - 10-Aug-18 @ 1:52 PM
My company got taken over by a different company just over a year ago. I still have my old contract which stated I get paid for breaks. My new company has now come to the decision they would not like to pay me for these breaks. Is there anything i can do or say or do I just have to accept it? :( please advise. thanks
Dazza - 9-Aug-18 @ 8:25 PM
Dave - Your Question:
I work for a food manufacturer who say I can’t leave site on my break is this ok. They say because they pay my breaks it is but can I not wave my paid break and clock out can they legally refuse it’s a no smoking site and I’m not allowed to clock off and stand off site to smoke is allowed??

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract and what you have agreed to when signing it. Whether you can leave the site/smoke should be contained within.
WelfareAtWork - 7-Aug-18 @ 10:04 AM
I work for a food manufacturer who say I can’t leave site on my break is this ok. They say because they pay my breaks it is but can I not wave my paid break and clock out can they legally refuse it’s a no smoking site and I’m not allowed to clock off and stand off site to smoke is allowed??
Dave - 6-Aug-18 @ 1:14 PM
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