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: 12 Apr 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.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Bob - Your Question:
Hi forgot to mention that my breaks are unpaid so to get paid for a 9 1/4 hour shift I have to be in the building(unable to leave) for 10 3/4 hours or I lose pay is this right?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract, which should tell you all you need to know. However, if your employer is trying to change the terms of your contract without agreement from you, please see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 13-Apr-18 @ 12:29 PM
Hi forgot to mention that my breaks are unpaid so to get paid for a 9 1/4 hour shift I have to be in the building(unable to leave) for 10 3/4 hours or I lose pay is this right?
Bob - 12-Apr-18 @ 4:40 PM
Danielle brown - Your Question:
I work in retail. At least once a week I finish at 9pm (and as always with retail, you're there for a good 15-30 minutes after at least) and I'm forced to work from either 6 or 7am the next day (have been told we need to be there 20 mins early) That is well below the 11 hour legal limit. Whenever I challenge this, they make it abundantly clear that if I have a problem with it, they can just find someone else. Also, all overtime has been cut. We are now on part time contracts expected to do a workload that would just about be manageable in a full time role. As a result, they expect any unfinished work to be completed on your days off, unpaid. Citing it as failure to complete tasks given in the contracted hours. Again, failure to comply will lead to replacement and dismissal. Surely this cannot be legal? I'm extremely exhausted and have had little to no time to myself lately. Currently searching for a new job, but they are scarce here. What are my legal rights?

Our Response:
In this case speaking directly to Acas may benefit you more. In the first instance, you should read the terms of your contract and if your employer is not complying with it, then it is breaching the contract. Therefore, you will need to explore your options.
WelfareAtWork - 12-Apr-18 @ 11:30 AM
Hi, I work nights in a supermarket so can't leave the building for breaks they were letting us have 2 lots of 1/2 hour breaks now they are insisting that we take 1 1/2 hours during the night and can't leave early or they have deducted money from our wages saying that we are not taking the correct amount of breaks
Bob - 12-Apr-18 @ 6:53 AM
I work in retail. At least once a week I finish at 9pm (and as always with retail, you're there for a good 15-30 minutes after at least) and I'm forced to work from either 6 or 7am the next day (have been told we need to be there 20 mins early) That is well below the 11 hour legal limit. Whenever I challenge this, they make it abundantly clear that if I have a problem with it, they can just find someone else. Also, all overtime has been cut. We are now on part time contracts expected to do a workload that would just about be manageable in a full time role. As a result, they expect any unfinished work to be completed on your days off, unpaid. Citing it as failure to complete tasks given in the contracted hours. Again, failure to comply will lead to replacement and dismissal. Surely this cannot be legal? I'm extremely exhausted and have had little to no time to myself lately. Currently searching for a new job, but they are scarce here. What are my legal rights?
Danielle brown - 11-Apr-18 @ 9:46 AM
Mike - Your Question:
At the company I work for there are loads of workers including me who do not get breaks when working 6+ hours, the employer has said because we get a free pizza we don’t get a break which to me doesn’t make a lot of sense. On top of that, workers who are closing the store do not get paid if they’re there after 1am

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract of employment. This should tell you what your break entitlement is, which should be laid out in minutes not free pizzas. If your employer is not keeping to the terms of your contract, then you should speak to your employer directly.
WelfareAtWork - 29-Mar-18 @ 1:40 PM
At the company I work for there are loads of workers including me who do not get breaks when working 6+ hours, the employer has said because we get a free pizza we don’t get a break which to me doesn’t make a lot of sense. On top of that, workers who are closing the store do not get paid if they’re there after 1am
Mike - 28-Mar-18 @ 11:47 PM
lillibet - Your Question:
I get a 20 minute break in 6 hours (paid). Can I leave work after 6 hours or do I have to be at work for 6hours and 20 mins before I leave?

Our Response:
You would have to look at the terms and conditions of your employment contract in order to see your contracted hours.
WelfareAtWork - 23-Mar-18 @ 10:36 AM
I get a 20 minute break in 6 hours (paid). Can I leave work after 6 hours or do I have to be at work for 6hours and 20 mins before I leave?
lillibet - 22-Mar-18 @ 2:04 PM
Emmalouise2006 - Your Question:
Hi, I work in a factory and got a contract last October, but have worked there for 6 years previous through an agency. I work 8 hour days and get 30 minutes unpaid break. However all over contract staff (which I now am) get paid for there breaks. Is it legal for them to pay all other contract staff for breaks except me? When we all do exactly the same job? My probationary period was 12 weeks which has now passed, so I should be on the same wages as everyone else, is this right? Thanks

Our Response:
Sometimes terms and conditions are changed when new members enter the company, while the existing staff remain on older contracts. You would have to discuss this with your employer directly.
WelfareAtWork - 22-Mar-18 @ 1:42 PM
Hi, I work in a factory and got a contract last October, but have worked there for 6 years previous through an agency. I work 8 hour days and get 30 minutes unpaid break. However all over contract staff (which I now am) get paid for there breaks. Is it legal for them to pay all other contract staff for breaks except me? When we all do exactly the same job? My probationary period was 12 weeks which has now passed, so I should be on the same wages as everyone else, is this right? Thanks
Emmalouise2006 - 21-Mar-18 @ 12:12 AM
Danni - Your Question:
I work a 12 hour contract!! But will work at least 20 -39 hours with out being asked also I can do a late till 10.15pm then be in the next morning at 6.30 am is this allowed ?? Can they make you work over time when you have told them you can not because your kids are off for the Easter holidays ?

Our Response:
You would have to refer to the terms and conditions in your contract to see what you have agreed to. You can also see more via the gov.uk link here, which further explains your rights. If your employer is not keeping to the terms of your contract, then you should speak to your employer directly in order to try to resolve the issue.
WelfareAtWork - 19-Mar-18 @ 1:50 PM
Newby - Your Question:
Hi , I am contracted to work a 37 hour week.I work as a flexible support worker in a day centre with adults with autism who have very high needs. My contract says I am entitled to a 20 minute unpaid break each day , I and all the staff donot get this as the service users need constant supervision and we are with our service users 7 hours straight each day.Is this legal ?

Our Response:
Your employer should stick to the terms of your contract. You should be awarded your break, if you are not then you would need to take this up with your employer directly, please see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 19-Mar-18 @ 11:14 AM
Hi , I am contracted to work a 37 hour week.I work as a flexible support worker in a day centre with adults with autism who have very high needs. My contract says I am entitled to a 20 minute unpaid break each day , I and all the staff donot get this as the service users need constant supervision and we are with our service users 7 hours straight each day . Is this legal ?
Newby - 18-Mar-18 @ 2:30 PM
I work a 12 hour contract!! But will work at least 20 -39 hours with out being asked also I can do a late till 10 .15pm then be in the next morning at 6.30 am is this allowed ?? Can they make you work over time when you have told them you can not because your kids are off for the Easter holidays ?
Danni - 17-Mar-18 @ 4:00 AM
I work a 12 hour contract!! But will work at least 20 -39 hours with out being asked also I can do a late till 10 .15pm then be in the next morning at 6.30 am is this allowed ??
Danni - 17-Mar-18 @ 3:52 AM
Dave - Your Question:
My contract states 8.5 hrs a day with 1hour for lunch. A new manager has now decided that only our department will have only 30 mins for lunch and two 15 mins breaks 1 morning and 1 afternoon. The rest of the company (some 180 employees) still have 1 hour. Can he do this without changing our contracts?

Our Response:
Any change of contract should be carried out with agreement by the employee. Please see link here , which tells you how the process should be negotiated.
WelfareAtWork - 13-Mar-18 @ 9:33 AM
My contract states 8.5 hrs a day with 1hour for lunch. A new manager has now decided that only our department will have only 30 mins for lunch and two 15 mins breaks 1 morning and 1 afternoon. The rest of the company (some 180 employees) still have 1 hour. Can he do this without changing our contracts?
Dave - 12-Mar-18 @ 6:49 PM
Hi My sons have started working in a restaurant and they are getting an hours wage deduction if they don’t take their 15 minutes break which is often as it is so busy,is that even legal? Both of them are under 18.
Big Red - 11-Mar-18 @ 10:14 PM
If I have a written contact for 16 hours a week but do not get paid for my breaks can myemployee reduce my hours My total breaks a week are 35 minutes can he take that off my contact hours? Thanks asking for a friend?
Char - 6-Mar-18 @ 11:46 PM
Mumsy - Your Question:
I work 2pm till 10pm on my own at a petrol station I don't get a break I eat as I'm working, is this breaking the law

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what breaktime you are allowed at work. Some jobs (such as retail) have an opt-out clause written into the contract.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Mar-18 @ 11:49 AM
Di - Your Question:
I'm on a 12 hour night shift and I am only paid 11 hours because my break is not paid. We are entitle for an hour break but we are not allowed to sleep during our break.

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract. This will tell you all you need to know regarding what entitlements you have and what you have agreed to.
WelfareAtWork - 5-Mar-18 @ 12:57 PM
I work 2pm till 10pm on my own at a petrol station I don't get a break I eat as I'm working, is this breaking the law
Mumsy - 5-Mar-18 @ 12:14 PM
I'm on a 12 hour night shift and I am only paid 11 hours because my break is not paid. We are entitle for an hour break but we are not allowed to sleep during our break.
Di - 3-Mar-18 @ 10:11 PM
I am paid for a seven hours say but work 8.5 hours we are supposed to take back 2.5 hors per week to comPenstemon this hardly ever happens due to staffing problems. I am entitled to a one hour unpaid lunch break but never get one again due to the fact that say there must be a member of management in the store. This somtimes means I can work 5 days at 8.5 hrs without a break. Am I entitled to take my breaks.
Angel - 27-Feb-18 @ 10:54 AM
Mary - Your Question:
If I work exactly 6 hrs a day, do I have to take unpaid 30 minute break? Or can I have a 15minute paid break?

Our Response:
You should have the break which is contained within the terms and conditions of your employment contract, unless you re-negotiate your break times directly with your employer. Breaks can be paid or unpaid. Again, it is up to your employer to decide.
WelfareAtWork - 26-Feb-18 @ 1:43 PM
If i work exactly 6 hrs a day, do I have to take unpaid 30 minute break? Or can I havea 15minute paid break?
Mary - 24-Feb-18 @ 5:45 PM
hi i work 12 hour 15 mins shift, i have to take a 1 hour break in that time but sometimes its so late/early in the shift that i work 9 hours straight. I work at a hospital. Is this allowed?
amy - 24-Feb-18 @ 12:08 PM
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
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the WelfareAtWork website. Please read our Disclaimer.