Home > Ask Our Experts > Can I Leave the Premises on my Lunch Break?

Can I Leave the Premises on my Lunch Break?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Work Break Lunch Break Working Time

Q.I work with children anything up to nine and half hours a day and get given one half hour break unpaid whilst the children are sleeping. I appreciate the children still need looking after, but if my employer does not pay me for my breaks can she then prevent me from leaving the premises during my half hour break?

(Miss Joanna Walley, 23 September 2008)

A.

The Working Time Regulations stipulate that if you are over 18, you are entitled to a 20 minute rest break where your daily working time is more than 6 hours per day and, under normal circumstances, under the legislation you are absolutely entitled to take that rest break wherever you want to take it which includes leaving the premises. If you are under 18, you're entitled to a 30 minute break whenever you work a shift that is at least 4 and a half hours of continuous work and, once again, you can take that break away from the premises.

However, in this instance, where complications arise is that there are a number of exceptions to the regulations when it comes to leaving the premises.

With regards to your own specific issue, one of the exceptions to the Working Time Regulations when it comes to rest breaks stipulates that the rules apply differently if “there’s an emergency or risk of an accident”. Therefore, your employer could legitimately argue that in spite of the children being asleep, there needs to be a member of staff on the premises in the event that an emergency or accident was to occur.

However, as you’re not being paid for your lunch break, you could then legitimately counter that argument by saying that if you’re unable to leave the premises then, in effect, that therefore means that you're still on ‘work time’ and that even if they still give you the 20 minute break (which is required by law), then you have every right to ask them to pay you for it.

Basically, there are two solutions. Either the employer needs to provide an additional staff member to cover for you whilst you go on your unpaid lunch break and that will mean you can leave the premises if you so choose. Or, alternatively, if they are not prepared to do this, then you have the right to be paid for the time you are keeping an eye on the children at lunchtime, in spite of the fact that you are having your lunch at the same time.

Should your employer not agree to either of these solutions, then your next step would be to seek advice which might also result in you having to take them to an Employment Tribunal to force them to pay you for the time you need to remain on the premises. One final point, however, is that your employer is only obliged to give you a 20 minute break (whether paid or unpaid) not the 30 minutes you’re currently getting, unless you are under 18 where they must give you 30 minutes. And, with you saying you work “up to 9 and a half hours”, should there be any days where you work for less than 6 hours, your legal entitlement may not be the same.

ACAS run an advice helpline and will be able to advise you further.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
@Rach - yes, if your employer thinks it would affect the business, then yes.
Jo - 31-Jul-17 @ 3:38 PM
Can my employee ban anything hot or cooked from the premises when we are on break. My employer is stating that we are no longer allowed to have any hot food at all on the premises as it is not fair if the customer can smell it. Can they dictate what staff can and can't eat for lunch.
Rach - 29-Jul-17 @ 7:35 PM
M - Your Question:
I work for a privately owned business, I have be told that I have to sometimes work on my break and I'm not allowed to leave the building for my breaks. Is this legal?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to find this out. However, as specified in the article, by law you are allowed a 20-minute break for every six hours you work. If you cannot take your break at the allotted time, then you should be given a compensatory break as near to the time of your original break as possible.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 14-Jul-17 @ 2:35 PM
I work for a privately owned business, I have be told that I have to sometimes work on my break and I'm not allowed to leave the building for my breaks. Is this legal?
M - 14-Jul-17 @ 8:14 AM
Bcleaves - Your Question:
Is it right for an employer to stop you leaving the building on paid breaks? Recently at work a new manager has implemented this rule, so we are no longer allowed to leave the building on or 15 min paid breaks but still can on unpaid breaks

Our Response:
If this decision does not form part of your contract then you do not have to abide by the decision if your contract specifies you can leave the building. You would have to agree to the new terms, otherwise the terms of your contract still remain. However, if you do not feel the new decision is fair and you object to it, then you would have to try and resolve this with your employer directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 13-Jul-17 @ 12:44 PM
We are now being told as hourly employees (just 3 of us) that if we leave the building we must clock out.Everyone else is salaried and they take long lunches and never clock out.If liability is supposedly the reason companies want hourly people to clock out I don't understand.If you're off-site for lunch and you have an accident, why should it make a difference if you are hourly or FT? I may leave the office 1 time a week for lunch and the hourly people take 1+ hours every day.....the liability excuse just doesn't wash.
Red - 12-Jul-17 @ 5:46 PM
Is it right for an employer to stop you leaving the building on paid breaks? Recently at work a new manager has implemented this rule, so we are no longer allowed to leave the building on or 15 min paid breaks but still can on unpaid breaks
Bcleaves - 12-Jul-17 @ 8:17 AM
angie - Your Question:
I WRK AT A NON PROFIT ORGANAZATION. (A THRIFT STORE) ON OUR 15 MIN BREAK WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE BUILDING. TO TAKE OUR BREAK. IS THAT AGAINST THE LAW

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract and what you have agreed to by signing the contract.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 10-Jul-17 @ 10:27 AM
I WRK AT A NON PROFIT ORGANAZATION... (A THRIFT STORE) ON OUR 15 MIN BREAK WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE BUILDING ... TO TAKE OUR BREAK. IS THAT AGAINST THE LAW
angie - 9-Jul-17 @ 7:49 AM
Hi I currently work 40 hours and paid for 39 I have 1 hour unpaid lunch break which I'm Now being told that due to lack of management cover I'm unable to leave yh building. What are my rights ? Can I asked to be paid for that 1 hour.
Ls - 1-Jun-17 @ 7:27 AM
Mcdees - Your Question:
My Employer says we are a not allowed to leave the building, which means no going outside at all.If we do we will be locked out, or be taken of the schedule. can she legally remove us on the schedule for not complying with her rules?

Our Response:
Much depends upon what your contract states and what you have agreed to be signing the contract. However, as a rule if you are on a lunch break you should be able to spend the lunch break how you choose. I advise you to read your contract and give ACAS a call if you need any further advice.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 11-May-17 @ 2:19 PM
My Employer says we are a not allowed to leave the building, which means no going outside at all... If we do we will be locked out, or be taken of the schedule... can she legally remove us on the schedule for not complying with her rules?
Mcdees - 10-May-17 @ 11:40 PM
Hgv driver take correct driving breaks but company saying will not pay us our breaks and take the 45 mins back off us 15 then 30but we carnt leave the vehicle un attended is this correct
Ned - 6-May-17 @ 8:27 AM
I work in a premises that will not allow us to leave during breaks (which are unpaid) they also do not allow us to talk to other collegues during it. We are made did in the staff room by ourselves. Is this legal?
Wildo - 29-Apr-17 @ 10:30 PM
CA. OSHA says an employer must give his full time employees two ten minute breaks and one thirty.
Damionadams - 16-Apr-17 @ 9:19 AM
Hi i work from 9.30-5.30 with 30 min break, if we do not have enough staff i have been told i cannot leave the work place. can i insist i take the full break and leave the building
freddy - 10-Mar-17 @ 3:51 PM
Sian - Your Question:
I work and get paid for 40hrs a week. For the past 2yrs I have had an hour lunch break (unpaid) my boss is now saying I am only to have 20 minutes break and then the other 40 is taken between customers. I work on my own all afternoon. But they are not paying me for any of my break. Is that allowed? What if I don't get my 40 minutes because the shop is busy?

Our Response:
Your employer actually only need give you a 20 minute break for every six hours you work. Therefore, your employer is entitled to change the terms of your contract, if there is a current clause in yoru contract to say your employer can. You would need to read your contract to find out.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 16-Feb-17 @ 12:51 PM
Let me be clear, i work 2 nights 7pm-7am the rest of my week i work during the day. In total i work 39.5hrs due to 30mins being automatically deducted
Cali714 - 10-Feb-17 @ 6:06 AM
I work 2 nights a week, 12hrs each, well 11.5hrs (30mins automatically deducted), 7pm-7am, as a concierge/security. I have to pass out meds, secure the facility (make my rounds every 2hrs) and make sure residents are fine throughout the night and answer phone calls (if any).My boss told me that i "could" take a break, yet i can't leave the facility and i still have to answer phone calls and assist residents if they need something due to me being the only employee here at night. So are they allowed to still deduct my time worked or am i to be paid every minute of it? Also working nights would put me in overtime if the 30mins weren't being deducted, so would they have to pay me the hrs i should have gotten as Time and a half for overtime?
Cali714 - 10-Feb-17 @ 6:01 AM
I work and get paid for 40hrs a week. For the past 2yrs I have had an hour lunch break (unpaid) my boss is now saying I am only to have 20 minutes break and then the other 40 is taken between customers. I work on my own all afternoon. But they are not paying me for any of my break. Is that allowed? What if I don't get my 40 minutes because the shop is busy?
Sian - 9-Feb-17 @ 6:59 PM
Hi I work in a freezer 8 hours shift days and after noons some times it cold as minus 30 mi breaks on a 6 till 2 shift 7 am 15 minutes .8am 40 min. 10 am 40 minutes . 12 am 40 minutes and 1.30 finish are my companybreaking the law as cold its minus 30 all shift
cold one - 30-Jan-17 @ 7:38 PM
Hi, I work in an airport. And in order to have a break outside (Tab time) I must leave the building. Through security. which takes 10 mins to get out and 10 mins to get in. its quite a distance to walk to get out. Im only 25 minute break. Thats leaving me with 5 minutes of fresh air. is this correct or should the not include security checks ?
John - 6-Jan-17 @ 1:55 PM
We are working in a HMP and are escorted everywhere. If I wish to leave the HMP for my unpaid lunch but can not due to lack of escorts should I be paid for lunch as I have not been able to leave the premises. My boss wants us to stay on site due to time taken leaving and returning to the HMP, again does this count as lunch?
Pez - 22-Nov-16 @ 12:33 PM
Hello. I work 5 mind away from my job (sears) so in my lunch I drive home and eat there. I was told by my manager thru text today that I will not be allowed to leave the building and to start bringing my own lunch. I feel like this is not right. I understand that we are short on staff people however that is not my responsibility. I need advise. I am from california
Jay - 15-Nov-16 @ 11:43 PM
Hi I work 12hr shift in a care home and at the moment we have 2 20 mins breaks and a 30mins break my employer has informed us today that soon they will be making us take our breaks on the floor with the resident is this aloud as I wouldn't say that it is a break if I am still with the residents
Tania - 31-Oct-16 @ 9:27 PM
Hi!i am working12hours shift!i have my break paid(15min ,at11,30min in the lunch time ,15min in the afternoon )but now ,my manager said that I am not aloud to smoke on my brake, and if I do, my brake won't get paid. Is that legal for her to not pay my brake??
maybe59 - 16-Oct-16 @ 10:14 PM
Work as a psw in the same location for 8 years. I can not leave the premises and my break is deducted from me. At times I don't get my breaks as call bells need to be answered so I need to leave my break.I work a 96 hr 2 week cycle and only get paid 88 hours. Like I said I'm required to stay on site and leave my meals or breaks for work.Why am I getting my 8 hours every two weeks unpaid? Am I not in title to pay?
Sherri - 8-Oct-16 @ 4:14 AM
My grandson works at a fast food restaurant( Burger King). He works 10 hours a day M-F. He's not allowed to take a break and was told by his manager that she does not have to give him a break as he is an adult. Is this legal? We live in South Carolina. Also, she told him that he's not going to have every weekend Off. Is that legal if he 's already working 5 days a week?
She - 3-Oct-16 @ 5:17 PM
Rebel - Your Question:
HiI work as a nurse on days and nights. On a day shift we are allowed a1 hour unpaid break and can leave the premises. On a nightshift we cannot leave the premises as there are no addittional staff to cover the ward. Should my employer pay me for the hour that I cannot leave the premises.

Our Response:
It depends on what you have agreed to in the terms and conditions of your contract. If you have agreed to those terms, then your employer does not have to pay you for the nightshift break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 8-Sep-16 @ 11:05 AM
I work at a bank. Due to security reasons, we are required to have two employees on premises in order to have our doors open. This means two employees in the lobby area, or just off it in an office (I.e. One person cannot man the lobby while the other one sits in the break room). When we are at minimal staffing, we are still required to clock out for our 30 minute lunch. Even though we cannot leave the building, they still tell us that we need to clock out. Is this legal?
AlwaysThinking - 7-Sep-16 @ 10:08 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
  • WorkplaceSafetyAdvice
    Re: Dealing with Employee Theft
    Sandro - Your Question:Hi, I'm working as a self employer put for amazon delivery driver , I'm working for them nearly year already…
    21 August 2017
  • Sandro
    Re: Dealing with Employee Theft
    Hi, I'm working as a self employer put for amazon delivery driver , I'm working for them nearly year already without any problem,…
    20 August 2017
  • Rosie
    Re: Expectant Mothers in the Workplace
    I am a nail tech 22 weeks pregnant I am only allowed to have time off if my appointment are made at the beginning or end…
    18 August 2017
  • Paul Shaw
    Re: Forklift Truck Safety
    Do I need a forklift licence to load lorry's at my place of work thank you
    18 August 2017
  • Freddie
    Re: How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?
    I work as a HGV driver my shift starts on a Sunday and ends on a Thursday on Sunday I do roughly a 12 hour shift starting at…
    17 August 2017
  • Caroline
    Re: How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?
    I am having to work 10 hours with a 20 min break .my supervisor is the only other worker on that shift.she said that if we…
    16 August 2017
  • Levs
    Re: Forklift Truck Safety
    What are the legal times you are allowed to operate big mhe without a break as we are expected to run our trucks continually for 4hrs…
    13 August 2017
  • gbp
    Re: A Guide to Manual Handling and Lifting Techniques
    Hi, I am a service provider for a large domestic and industrial parcel delivery company. They…
    12 August 2017
  • WorkplaceSafetyAdvice
    Re: Dealing with Employee Theft
    Paul - Your Question:Hi I was just wondering where I stand I have svq3 in healt and social care I took on a job with care of the…
    11 August 2017
  • Carrie
    Re: How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?
    I have worked for my employer for 17 years, 8 full time, the last 9 partime, having returned from maternity leave. My…
    11 August 2017
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 WorkplaceSafetyAdvice website. Please read our Disclaimer.