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: 19 Oct 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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I work 9 hours a day with a half hour unpaid break is this legal.
victoria - 19-Oct-17 @ 8:34 PM
FM - Your Question:
Hello. I work 40 hours a week. 4 long days e.g 9am - 8pm or 10.15am - 9.15am. We only have 45 mins lunch then a 15 min break. I am a receptionist at a salon but they do not allow us to have chairs so we are standing on our feet all day long. We use to have 1 hour lunch then 30 mins break but they just changed it 2 days ago to 45 mins lunch and 15 mins break as apparently we were taking too much break time off. Is this legal? Thank you

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. However, if you work eleven hours, this still applies (you are only allowed another break of 20 minutes after 12 hours continuous work). If you are employed, then you should read the terms of your employment contract to find out what you have agreed to. If you were given an hour lunch and a 30 minute break in your contract and there is no clause to say your employer can change this, then you can state that you do not wish your break times to change.
WelfareAtWork - 19-Oct-17 @ 12:35 PM
Hello. I work 40 hours a week. 4 long days e.g 9am - 8pm or 10.15am - 9.15am. We only have 45 mins lunch then a 15 min break.I am a receptionist at a salon but they do not allow us to have chairs so we are standing on our feet all day long. We use to have 1 hour lunch then 30 mins break but they just changed it 2 days ago to 45 mins lunch and 15 mins break as apparently we were taking too much break time off. Is this legal? Thank you
FM - 18-Oct-17 @ 7:09 AM
Tigger - Your Question:
I work thirteen and a half hour shifts. Although we do get a 20 minute break, we have 1 hour taken off as unpaid break. Is this legal?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms of your contract. However, if you are awarded a one hour unpaid break as part of the terms of your contract, then you should receive a one hour break and you have the right to insist on one.
WelfareAtWork - 17-Oct-17 @ 1:59 PM
I work thirteen and a half hour shifts. Although we do get a 20 minute break, we have 1 hour taken off as unpaid break. Is this legal?
Tigger - 14-Oct-17 @ 11:01 PM
Hello I work 8hr shift and get a 30 min unpaid break. Which I am fine with but my employer is saying that I can’t come back to my office for lunch break. And that I must use another building in the area near to where I am working. But we can’t use a vehicle to transport the lunch bags we expected to carry out lunch bags to the other building before I start my daily tasks. Surely it’s my 30mins and I should be able to eat my lunch where I like. Plus health and safety comes into play carrying my bag while out working as it a large bag I have as it has my lunch 1ltr bottle of water and other stuff for making hot drinks etc.
Jsmith - 12-Oct-17 @ 5:56 PM
Sowf - Your Question:
Hi. I need some advice. I'm currently working in a very busy job in a dental clinic. This requires working shift patterns but on the days that staff work 12 hours 8am til 8pm the clinic is running the whole time which means staff don't get a break at all. Whilst we are paid for lunch breaks I think it is unlawful to tell staff they aren't allowed a break (management often say no to staff taking a lunch break on a 12 hour shift) which means staff are on their feet 12 hours and not even being able to eat anything. Is this against the law? Many staff members have complained about this but are told it won't change. If a staff member was to take a legal amount of lunch break anyway even though the manager said no, are they allowed to fire the employee? Some advice would be great as this is extremely frustrating and unfair

Our Response:
First of all, you would have to read the terms of your employment contract to see what it says. If it says you should have a paid for hour break, then your employer should ensure you have this break on time, or as near to the allotted time as possible. By not allowing you a break your employer is contravening the European Working Directive rules. You and your colleagues may wish to raise a grievance, please see link here. Unfortunately, employees cannot claim unfair dismissal until they have been in the job for over two years. However, giving ACAS a call and asking for further advice and guidance on how best to approach this would be advisable.
WelfareAtWork - 12-Oct-17 @ 10:59 AM
Hi. I need some advice. I'm currently working in a very busy job in a dental clinic. This requires working shift patterns but on the days that staff work 12 hours 8am til 8pm the clinic is running the whole time which means staff don't get a break at all. Whilst we are paid for lunch breaks I think it is unlawful to tell staff they aren't allowed a break (management often say no to staff taking a lunch break on a 12 hour shift) which means staff are on their feet 12 hours and not even being able to eat anything. Is this against the law? Many staff members have complained about this but are told it won't change. If a staff member was to take a legal amount of lunch break anyway even though the manager said no, are they allowed to fire the employee? Some advice would be great as this is extremely frustrating and unfair
Sowf - 10-Oct-17 @ 8:35 PM
Rup cia man - Your Question:
Hi.I'm working in private land security officer. My work is everytime walking around estate. My working hours is 7am to 7pm. Also we have to come 15min before 7 o'clock which is not payd otherwise in controller gonna writing down late at work. I'm coming everytime 06.55am or 06.58amAnd they always writing down to managers not on site. Do I have to come this 15min before if I'm not payd.?And also I'm doing 12h always on foots.We have first break 10am. 15min break and later on 1 or 2pm 1hour break. Sometimes is so bussy on site like events days and we can take breaks coz on all site we working just 3 security, site is huge. They don't want get to us more security. Always working on pressure. I start feel I getting stress of that. What you advise me?

Our Response:
As always, most of the answers to your questions are contained in the terms and conditions of your employment contract. If coming in 15 minutes earlier forms part of the terms, and you have signed the contract, then you have agreed to the terms. However, if your employer wants you in at a specific time, then your employer should really pay you from that time. If you cannot have your break at the allotted time, then your employer should allow you to have your break as near as possible to the time as feasible. Both of these issues should be discussed with your employer/manager directly. If 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 - 3-Oct-17 @ 11:28 AM
Hi. I'm working in private land security officer. My work is everytime walking around estate. My working hours is 7am to 7pm. Also we have to come 15min before 7 o'clock which is not payd otherwise in controller gonna writing down late at work. I'm coming everytime 06.55am or 06.58am And they always writing down to managers not on site. Do I have to come this 15min before if I'm not payd.? And also I'm doing 12h always on foots. We have first break 10am. 15min break and later on 1 or 2pm 1hour break. Sometimes is so bussy on site like events days and we can take breaks coz on all site we working just 3 security, site is huge. They don't want get to us more security. Always working on pressure. I start feel I getting stress of that. What you advise me?
Rup cia man - 2-Oct-17 @ 3:42 PM
Woohoo - Your Question:
I work 8 hrs in a shop and on my feet constantly. On Sundays I start at 8am and finish at 17.30. After starting at 8am I am sent after working 1 1/2 in work for a 30 minute break. Is this right? Also I am sent for another 30 minute break towards the end of my shift, I finish at 17.30. My query is, is this legal being sent early and late in the shift for breaks? or is it poor management? Also the last half hour of my shift is unpaid cleaning, is this also legal?

Our Response:
With regards to the unpaid cleaning, you would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract. You should also read the contract regarding when your breaks should be taken. 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. If you are sent on a break near the beginning of your shift and one near the end, with no break in between, then you would need to take this up with your employer directly. If your employer ignores your request, you can raise a grievance, please see link here.
WelfareAtWork - 25-Sep-17 @ 10:43 AM
I work 8 hrs in a shop and on my feet constantly.On Sundays I start at 8am and finish at 17.30.After starting at 8am I am sent after working 1 1/2 in work for a 30 minute break. Is this right? Also I am sent for another 30 minute break towards the end of my shift, I finish at 17.30. My query is, is this legal being sent early and late in the shift for breaks?or is it poor management? Also the last half hour of my shift is unpaid cleaning, is this also legal?
Woohoo - 24-Sep-17 @ 10:55 AM
@ Binlyd - are you on a permanent contract? If you are, you don't have to agree to the changes, you can say no. Your employer can only change the terms of your contract if you agree to signing the new contract if you don't there's nothing your employer can do. Also, if you agree to the new terms and have an hours break as part of your contract, paid or unpaid, if you have to go to an 'incident', you should still be awarded the time out of your break as compensatory rest as near to the original break as possible.If you are on a self-employed contract, that's a different matter, you don't have any rights really :(
MsH - 22-Aug-17 @ 3:41 PM
Micky - Your Question:
I work"not less than 40hrs a week" contract. However, during each shift of 8-11hrs ,(varied), 1,hr is classed as UNPAID BREAK. However on many occasions, this unpaid break are either interrupted or not available yet, it is assumed as taken and then deducted everytime, is this fair?

Our Response:
If you do not feel that the details laid out in employment contract correspond with what your employer is allowing you, then you need to take this up with your employer directly. As specified in the article, 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.
WelfareAtWork - 22-Aug-17 @ 2:06 PM
I work"not less than 40hrs a week" contract. However, during each shift of 8-11hrs ,(varied), 1,hr is classed as UNPAID BREAK. However on many occasions, this unpaid break are either interrupted or not available yet, it is assumed as taken and then deducted everytime, is this fair?
Micky - 22-Aug-17 @ 8:26 AM
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
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