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Taking a Break at Work: What are Your Rights?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 5 Oct 2021 | 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 have an unpaid lunch break Can my employer make we work through my break
tomo - 5-Oct-21 @ 10:22 AM
Can the employer send people for a rest break after three hours from the start /at 1am/ of the night shift 10pm-6am?
Suvarna - 14-Jul-21 @ 5:13 PM
I worked from 2 until 11:30 without a break as there was so much to do and no one to cover me. Can I press charges on work for not giving me a break ?
Jack - 8-Jun-21 @ 4:19 PM
I am a childcare worker I work 630 to 330. My boss told me I had to go on break a 9:00 and that's the only break I get after that could they do that?
Gab - 8-Apr-21 @ 11:17 PM
My manager saying that I can’t split my half hour break in 3x 10 min can she do that ?
Egle Baker - 23-Nov-20 @ 2:17 AM
Hi I work in a small cafe inside the post office. I work on my feet all day 9-4pm. I have to come in at 8.30am to prep food for the day ahead although not paid for coming in to do this. I don’t get any breaks as I’m lone working and my manager just told me to eat something when the store is quiet but the shops never quiet enough for 5 mins to eat something. Is that illegal? Can my manager expect me to work without a proper break to sit down and eat something?
Samantha - 20-Nov-20 @ 1:25 PM
I work 6-10 hours, during my 10 hour shift I get 2, 10minutes break and 1 20minutes lunch break, is this normal?
Adem - 13-Nov-20 @ 3:06 PM
Hi. My employer is saying I must "start work" 30mins before my rota start time. Is this legal? I am a field based worker and my contact states my home address as my place of work. Thanks
Lottie - 29-Oct-20 @ 12:39 AM
I start a 9 and a half HR shift at 7.30 and at 7.30 I was told to go for my tea break is this legal ? I work on a production line , I am now under a new boss, my old boss never ever did this
Polly - 7-Oct-20 @ 7:34 PM
I work in Ohio in an office and am a salaried employee we are given an hour unpaid lunch break for our 8-5 shift. We have office doors and my Mgr tried to tell me that I can’t take a nap during my lunch hour? Is this right? If it’s unpaid and my hour it’s my right to do what I want as long as it’s not illegal correct?
Liz - 26-Feb-20 @ 6:16 PM
Hi everyone! I would need an information. I am employed as Casual in a restaurant (FOH). Is my manager allowed to give me "compulsory" break before the 5 hours? I mean, can I refuse a break after the first 2 or 3 hours of the shift?
gioia - 21-Feb-20 @ 2:41 AM
I work in construction as a labourer. I cycle 9 miles to work each day. Was asked to start at 7am to do a 10 hour shift, seemed like good idea. After being told no time at 10am 1st break I waited till 1:30pm then was told Ive not got time for a break today. My agency told me to try stick the day out. I walked out and spent Xmas without food. It might be against the law but I fail to see any kind of help
Kajbw - 30-Dec-19 @ 10:45 PM
My mother is in an EMI home which has 22 residents. The senior left the building for her 20 minute break leaving 2 care staff on duty. Is this legal?
Lamoore - 21-Dec-19 @ 12:11 PM
I work part time in a large retail store standing on my feet I was under the impression that part time shifts were between 4-6 hrs , 6 hr shifts require 1/2 hr unpaid breaks I have been given 8 hr shifts which I’ve never had in a part time position ( I have worked for this company and others where this has been the case ) I will need to cut my days of work in order to accommodate an 8 hr shift on other days as i cannot work all these hours I cannot physically ( or mentally ) stand in one pace for all these hours as I have had a knee replacement in 2017 I also verbally stated that I expected 20 hrs or less and they are giving me up to 24 What are my rights
Shari - 20-Nov-19 @ 6:29 PM
Hi I work in a care home I get paid for my breaks but my manager as said we are not allowed our mobiles even on our breaks is this right?
Surfo - 23-Oct-19 @ 6:09 AM
I work from midnight to 0900 and we are forced to go on break 2 hours into the shift we do get an hour but is this legal?
Patsy - 18-Oct-19 @ 11:56 PM
If I work 9 hours a day in front of a computer at what point do I legally have to take a break is it 5 hours into my shift or 6 hours?
Col - 23-Sep-19 @ 6:57 PM
At workstaff are only entitleto15 minutes break duringa 6 hour shift with the companydiscretion
Rits - 18-Sep-19 @ 3:32 PM
I work as a car delivery / collection driver. My company has said I have to take my unpaid 30 minute dinner break when I am being driven to / from a job by another driver. I have asked to have a break away from my work station (passenger seat in a moving vehicle) so I can eat and drink without fear of spilling. They say that due to the nature of the work it is best I comply ! If I am constantly driving (pool car driver) I end up having to take my dinner break at the end of my 8 hour shift. I do not think this is legal.
Mr.P - 13-Sep-19 @ 12:05 AM
Is it illegal to be forced to work on your unpaid break??
Krystle Winfield - 17-Aug-19 @ 5:58 AM
I drive two hours to my place of work I arrive about 8am I then work until 5 I then drive another two hours to get home I am self employed what are my rights ?
Hulk - 25-Jul-19 @ 12:59 AM
I'm self-employed I do 15 hours night shifts in security 4 on 4 off I only get paid for 14 hours has he takes an hour off for my dinner I am not allowed to leave site and I still have to be on duty when I'm having my dinner which I don't get paid for is this legal
Mr c - 16-Jul-19 @ 7:47 PM
Hi am interested to know during what time I should be sent on a break. To my understanding it should be roughly half way through your shift to break the day apart. However I often get given a 9am-7pm shift and have been asked to go on my only break which is half hour unpaid by 10:30am, 11am etc. Is this legal? Am I allowed to refused to take a break after 2 hours on a 10 hour shift? Kind regards, Craig
Craigo - 12-Jul-19 @ 1:18 PM
I work in a betting shop and mostly have to work alone due to the company not wanting to employ people. Most of my shifts involve me coming in at 2pm till 10 and I'm having to to take my break at 3:30 otherwise I lose out. Is this allowed as it's really frustrating as I'm having to force dinner down me when I'm not hungry just so that I eat.
Steve - 11-Jul-19 @ 8:17 AM
Hello just wonder I went to doctor at nine clock and finish at 9.40 got to work at 9.50 so I own hour and 50 min I work though break time for 15 main no break I own back time and 35 min after workso that allow to work time back through break time it me own them let me know thank
Bluebell15 - 24-Jun-19 @ 9:38 AM
On a 9 and a half hour shift I get a one hour unpaid break. In which I normally watch Netflix (which I pay for) on my phone (again bought by myself) using my 4g data (again paid for by me). However now the company is saying I am not allowed to do this and are threatening with disciplinary action with dismissal. They say its breaching the public viewing laws since I'm using their free wifi (I dont as it's about 2mb) and their electricity to charge my phone (again i dont as i charge my phone at home before i go to work and then in the car on the way home. Can they do this? Just as I said I use only my own things paid for by myself. To put it in another light. I could literally walk out of the building and walk five steps sit on the bench in front of it where at any give point there are at least 30 people walking passed (busy high street) sign in to the wifi and watch it there. (I dont as stated previously their wifi is garbage). Or walk out the back to my car plug my charger into it and sign in to their wifi and watch it in my car (again I dont sign in to their wifi as it's really bad to the point Facebook fails to load) What rights do I have in this situation?
Sukaer - 20-Jun-19 @ 9:02 PM
I work for a haulage company doing gate house security. I work 4 on and 4 off (12 hour shifts). I have worked for this company for 10. Years and have not had an uninterrupted for any of these years. I have to take my break doing my job. The the company pays me 42 hours per week. Am I entitled to my breaks by law. David. Thanks
Cantona - 14-Jun-19 @ 4:32 PM
My employer only goves one 30 minute break in a 9 hour shift at 1pm. If we are busy with a customer or the like and not on our break by 1pm he takes the time off us saying we have donated time to the company by finishing the task at hand. Is this legal?
Ste - 12-Jun-19 @ 1:54 PM
Hi my son who is 17 works in a well known sandwich chain. Yesterday his shift was 10-4.00pm but he worked 9.40-4.15pm as they wouldn't let him go. He kept asking for a break all day but the manager kept saying keep serving the customers. He can home starving, thirsty and knackered. Is that ok and what can we do about it?
betsy - 2-Jun-19 @ 4:31 AM
Tomorrow (Sunday) I am working from 8.30 until 23.30 which is 15 hours. I am a home care worker. I have no scheduled break as the calls follow on from each other throughout the shift with only travel time (driving) between them.
Panda - 13-Apr-19 @ 12:45 PM
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