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Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 9 Aug 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]
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
Emma - Your Question:
My boyfriend works 15 hours everyday travelling from house to house as a home careworker. His visits are back to back with no gap inbetween and only gets a 20 min break all day. Is he entitled to more break time?

Our Response:
If your boyfriend is working 15 hours in succession then by law he should have 2 x 20 minute breaks. Your boyfriend would need to read the terms and conditions of his employment contract to see what he has agreed to when signing it. If he is awarded a minimum of 2 x 20 minute breaks, then he can insists he takes them, if not at the time as near to the time as possible. Please also see the link here as there are exceptions.
WelfareAtWork - 2-Aug-18 @ 9:34 AM
My boyfriend works 15 hours everyday travelling from house to house as a home careworker. His visits are back to back with no gap inbetween and only gets a 20 min break all day.Is he entitled to more break time?
Emma - 1-Aug-18 @ 12:00 PM
Ali - Your Question:
I work for a supermarket and quite often are made to take my half an hour break after only 2 and a half hours from the start of my shift which is a nine hour shift,

Our Response:
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. Therefore, you should speak to your employer directly regarding this. You may also wish to check the terms and conditions of your contract to see what it says.
WelfareAtWork - 30-Jul-18 @ 11:27 AM
Scottie - Your Question:
I have just finished my shift at 1am and have to be back at work for 8am.I have checked my signed contract which states I have given away my right to 11 hours between shift.Is this legal for a company to take this entitlement away from you.

Our Response:
The link here should help answer your question.
WelfareAtWork - 30-Jul-18 @ 9:42 AM
I work for a supermarket and quite often are made to take my half an hour break after only 2 and a half hours from the start of my shift which is a nine hour shift,
Ali - 29-Jul-18 @ 10:38 AM
I have just finished my shift at 1am and have to be back at work for 8am. I have checked my signed contract which states I have given away my right to 11 hours between shift . Is this legal for a company to take this entitlement away from you.
Scottie - 29-Jul-18 @ 3:38 AM
Hi I am running a daycare center in the state of California and would like to know if I can enforce that my employees take a 1 hour lunch meal break when they work a 7 hour shift? The reason for enforcing this is that I believe that the educators need a good break away from the children as this type of work can be very demanding Thank you Longies123
Longies123 - 25-Jul-18 @ 5:55 PM
Holly - Your Question:
I work for a well known brand of hotel.We do not get breaks at all.I was told today to clock in and out for 20 mins for a break we never get !! We are not allowed to leave premises during our shift either

Our Response:
If your contract says that you should have breaks, then your employer is flouting the Working Time Directive regulations and their own contract, if they do not allow you time. It is especially dubious if the company is requesting you clock out for your break but not take it. You may wish to give ACAS a call, or question your employer directly regarding this.
WelfareAtWork - 23-Jul-18 @ 11:02 AM
I work for a well known brand of hotel. We do not get breaks at all. I was told today to clock in and out for 20 minsfor a break we never get !! We are not allowed to leave premises during our shift either
Holly - 21-Jul-18 @ 11:21 PM
Sandy - Your Question:
A new manager as started and we are doing long day shifts, I work in a retail shop. I have shifts of 10- 5.30, what breaks will I have ? Plus shifts of 10-4, will I have a break ? We previously never did shifts like this and I wonder what the law is for breaks.

Our Response:
As stated in the article, you are allowed a minimum of 20 minutes for every six hours or more that you work.
WelfareAtWork - 19-Jul-18 @ 2:31 PM
I work in the security industry at Belfast international airport and have done for over 10 years now obviously in that area goes unsociable hours particularly this year a lot of staff are having to walk out and go home sick because they haven't had a break some of these staff are working from 2am and at 11am still haven't had a break excuses range from its busy to many people phoned in sick etc maybe the security industry is exempt from the 6 hour rule but is that acceptableand legal even though your payed for your breaks now
Sticky - 19-Jul-18 @ 1:09 PM
A new manager as started and we are doing long day shifts, I work in a retail shop. I haveshifts of 10- 5.30, what breaks will I have ? Plus shifts of 10-4, will I have a break ? We previously never did shifts like this and I wonder what the law is for breaks .
Sandy - 18-Jul-18 @ 8:28 PM
Alisha - Your Question:
Hi, I recently started at a mailing company,I work 8.5 hour shifts monday to friday but I prefer to work the 8.5 hours with no break,Is that allowed??I know it depends on the contract but at the moment there is no contract.My question is how many hours can you work before you are OBLIGATED to having to take a break? Is it after 6 hours you have too?Hope you can help, thanks!

Our Response:
As stated in the article, when you are working you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work. This is both a right for you and a law that your employer has to adhere to.
WelfareAtWork - 16-Jul-18 @ 3:30 PM
Chris - Your Question:
Hello, so I have just recently started working somewhere, and they make us do 8.5 hour shifts, with.5 being unpaid for break, in all honestly I rarely take the break, can they force me to do 8.5 hours (bearing in mind that the.5 is unpaid for breaks) if I dont take a break?

Our Response:
Yes, by law you should have a break after working six hours or more. Most employee's breaks are unpaid and your employer does not have to pay you if you choose not to take your break. Your prerogative is to insist you take the break.
WelfareAtWork - 16-Jul-18 @ 2:19 PM
Hello, so i have just recently started working somewhere, and they make us do 8.5 hour shifts, with .5 being unpaid for break, in all honestly i rarely take the break, can they force me to do 8.5 hours (bearing in mind that the .5 is unpaid for breaks) if i dont take a break?
Chris - 14-Jul-18 @ 7:07 AM
Hi, I recently started at a mailing company, I work 8.5 hour shifts monday to friday but I prefer to work the 8.5 hours with no break, Is that allowed?? I know it depends on the contract but at the moment there is no contract. My question is how many hours can you work before you are OBLIGATED to having to take a break? Is it after 6 hours you have too? Hope you can help, thanks!
Alisha - 13-Jul-18 @ 11:54 PM
Mikael - Your Question:
I’m in Texas and I don’t know what the law is here, but at least twice a week my job pushes me to the point of quitting. They put us on these 9 to 12 hour shifts, with no lunch break, no 15 minute break, no any break. Today was about a 10 Hour shift , working on our feet for the entirety of the shift with no break. We didn’t get a minute to sit down once. Not even for a 30 seconds. We were barely even able to slip in a drink of water things were so busy. By the end of the shift today I was dyhrated, exhausted, could barely walk, and was extremely nauseous with a migrain.isn’t that illegal? How can they work us for these 9 to 12 hour shifts without giving us even a minute to simply sit down and rest our feet? And this happens every week. Not every shift, but at least twice a week.

Our Response:
I am afraid our sites are UK-based, so the break time laws may not apply in quite the same way. However, there will be laws applying to break times in the US. The link here may help you further.
WelfareAtWork - 9-Jul-18 @ 12:25 PM
I’m in Texas and I don’t know what the law is here, but at least twice a week my job pushes me to the point of quitting. They put us on these 9 to 12 hour shifts, with no lunch break, no 15 minute break, no any break. Today was about a 10 Hour shift , working on our feet for the entirety of the shift with no break. We didn’t get a minute to sit down once. Not even for a 30 seconds. We were barely even able to slip in a drink of water things were so busy. By the end of the shift today I was dyhrated, exhausted, could barely walk, and was extremely nauseous with a migrain. isn’t that illegal? How can they work us for these 9 to 12 hour shifts without giving us even a minute to simply sit down and rest our feet? And this happens every week. Not every shift, but at least twice a week.
Mikael - 7-Jul-18 @ 11:51 AM
Mike - Your Question:
Is it my choice to work for over six hours without a break? I want to work 6.5 hours, but my employer says I'm not allowed?

Our Response:
If your contract sepcifies when you have your break and how long your break is for and you sign the contract, then you have to stick to the terms of the contract.
WelfareAtWork - 6-Jul-18 @ 2:39 PM
is it my choice to work for over six hours without a break? I want to work 6.5 hours, but my employer says I'm not allowed?
Mike - 4-Jul-18 @ 5:12 PM
After working 14 hours with no break at all and have had a fall during the work time can you claim
Soldierboy - 4-Jul-18 @ 5:28 AM
Miss - Your Question:
Can your employer make you work every day including weekends with out a day off as he will be working from 2nd July to the 1st September

Our Response:
It depends on what your contract says and if you agree to it. If it's a short stint over a period of time, then yes. However, long term this is not permissable under the European Working Time Directive. Average working hours are calculated over a ‘reference’ period, normally 17 weeks. This means you can work more than 48 hours one week, as long as the average over 17 weeks is less than 48 hours a week, please see link here , which will help further.
WelfareAtWork - 3-Jul-18 @ 12:35 PM
Can your employer make you work every day including weekends with out a day off as he will be working from 2nd July to the 1st September
Miss - 2-Jul-18 @ 8:54 PM
Naomi09876 - Your Question:
I work in a supermarket and I’m under the age of 18 I get 30min break is this legal or am I meant to get 45mins (I always do 8hours or 8.5hour shifts)

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you’re allowed a 30-minute break if you work four and a half hours or more in a shift. Please also see link here , which will show you more.
WelfareAtWork - 2-Jul-18 @ 9:50 AM
I work in a supermarket and I’m under the age of 18 I get 30min break is this legal or am i meant to get 45mins (I always do 8hours or 8.5hour shifts)
Naomi09876 - 1-Jul-18 @ 7:21 AM
Brooky - Your Question:
Hi I'm after soon advice iv worked in the same care home for dementia for 7 years iv got 2 young children aged 4 & 7 iv worked 22 hours a week with set shifts for 7 years with no problems now we have a new manager who as said I can't have set shifts, my husband works full time for the police and works from home Monday and Wednesday so I can go to work, I assumed I had a contract for set shifts but my previous manager never sent my application to head office, also I work 12 hour shifts with 1 hours break which is not paid the new manager has now told us we are not allowed to leave the building on our unpaid break, we also have no staff room or nowhere in the building to take a break. Can anyone help me on where I stand. Thanks Brooky

Our Response:
Even if you do not have a specific contract, you have what is termed as an implied contract. If you have been doing set shifts over a period of time, then you do have rights to request that your employer continues this. You also have the right to a contract. The law states that certain express terms must be put in writing and handed to the employee in the form of a written statement of particulars within two months of starting work, please see link here . This means you can stand firm in your implied contract terms. You may wish to give Acas a call to verify this and explore your options.
WelfareAtWork - 29-Jun-18 @ 3:19 PM
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