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Rest breaks at work

By arranging the working hours in a way that it helps the employees and workers manage their responsibilities at home and at work, organisations too can efficiently manage their business.

Overall, employment law in the UK declares that the onus lies with the employers to make sure that their employees are not working too many hours at a stretch and are receiving the right amount of breaks between work.

Let us take a look at the current situation at workplaces across the United Kingdom when it comes to managing rest breaks.

Statutory Breaks and Rest Periods

In general, employees and workers are legally entitled to:

  • at least a 20-minute break if they work for longer than six hours (many organisations, however, allow longer and/or more frequent rest periods);
  • deny work if the average work hours exceed 48 hours per week (although individuals may choose to opt out of this and work longer);
  • 11 consecutive hours of rest within any 24-hour period;
  • one day off every week or two consecutive off days in a fortnight;
  • normal working hours of an average 8-hours (for night shifts) within any 24 hour period;

Overall, most employees are entitled to rest breaks during their work shifts, along with off days on a daily and weekly basis.

Compensatory Rest Breaks

A compensatory rest break implies that employees can take the break at a later time. In general, this type of breaks is taken within a reasonable time from when an individual missed the break.

Additionally, a compensatory rest break must last as long as a normal rest break. As an employee, you might be entitled to compensatory rest breaks, if:

● you are working in shifts;
● you work a job that requires you to cover at all times, like in a hospital;
● you work as a security guard;

Rest Breaks According to Age Groups

You are Over 18

If you are aged 18 or above and work for 6 hours or more in a day, you are entitled to:

  • at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted rest break during the day instead of at the beginning or end of work hours;
  • 11 hours of continuous rest between each working day;
  • a rest day every working week or 2 days off within a fortnight;

You are Over School Leaving Age But Under 18

In case, you are above school leaving age but still under 18, you cannot usually work in excess of 8 hours per day or 40 hours in a week. Additionally, you are entitled to:

  • a 30 minute rest break if your working day exceeds the duration of 4 hours and 30 minutes;
  • 12 hours rest break between each working day;
  • 2 off days per week;

Furthermore, you cannot usually work between:

    • 10 pm and 6 am (even if your contract requires you to work after 10 pm, you must finish by 11 pm and not start the next working day before 7am);
    • midnight to 4 am

There are, however, some exceptions to this. For example, if you are working in hospitals, retail work, agriculture, catering, hotels, bakeries, postal departments, newspaper deliveries, you cannot put a cap on the type of work hours.

What Happens If Your Employer Doesn’t Allow Rest Breaks?

According to employment law in the UK, employers are legally bound to allow rest breaks to their employees. In case, you are not allowed to take rest breaks during your working day, you can speak to your employers and seek to resolve the issue.

Otherwise, you can raise a written grievance, asking your HR person to intervene and come up with a resolution. Ultimately, you could go against your employer and make an employment tribunal claim against this. However, you will need to go through the ACAS early conciliation first before submitting the claim.

What Does Employment Law Say About Lunch Breaks?

Nowadays, long leisurely lunch breaks are fast disappearing from workplaces around the United Kingdom. According to research, less than one-third of employees and workers in the UK take an hour off for lunch. Furthermore, about half of them said that they had to work through lunch to cope with the heavy workloads.

Talking about the legal stand on lunch breaks, the Working Time Regulations (WTR) does not have anything specific. However, it does allow for one continuous 20-minute rest break during the working day in case the work hours exceed the 6-hour limit.

Having said this, contracts of employment usually allow for additional breaks, like an hour for lunch and a tea break in the afternoon. Furthermore, employees and workers are allowed to take their lunch break away from their workstations.

Overall, it is necessary that workers take rest breaks. Research has shown that lack of rest breaks and continuous exposure to heavy workloads and strict deadlines can make employees and workers less productive, affect their health and increase the risk of them making mistakes.