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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Breaks Working Time Directive Law

Q.How many breaks should be given in a twelve hour shift and how long should the breaks be?

(P.F, 6 October 2008)

A.

Under the Working Time Directive which applies to most adult workers, including those who work part time, are employed by an agency or if you work as a freelancer, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. Therefore, even on a 12 hour shift, you would still only be legally entitled to ONE rest break. For example, if you are given a lunch break of 20 minutes or more, that counts as your full entitlement for that day. The break must be given to you during your shift and not at the beginning or end of it.

Adult workers are entitled to an 11 hour rest period between each shift, although there are certain circumstance where this does not apply. Adult workers are also allowed one day off each week, however this can be averaged over two weeks.

Of course, in a similar fashion to companies who offer more than the minimum wage, most companies will give you more than one break on a 12 hour shift although they are not legally required to. To find out more about your entitlement, you should refer to your employment contract or staff handbook.

For young workers, under the age of 18, the rules are different. Young workers are entitled to a rest break of 30 minutes for every 4 and a half hours they work. There is also no legal requirement to pay you for your break nor for it to count towards the length of your working day. Young workers are also entitled to a 12 hour uninterrupted rest period between each shift as well as two days off each week - which cannot be averaged over two weeks.

Another exception when it comes to the Working Time Directive and rights to breaks is that of PSV and HGV drivers. Their rights to breaks come under the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations and the Tachograph regulations and tend to be more generous and which need to take into account issues of fatigue. Other light goods vehicle drivers and the likes of minibus drivers are covered by the Working Time Directive but their entitlements are a little more vague referring to the fact that they must get ‘adequate rest’ in order that fatigue does not cause them to injure themselves or injure others or cause an accident.

For more information about shift work read our article on The Health Risks of Shift Work.

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With regards to break entitlement, currently I work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. with a 15 minute break in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, the company is looking to reduce this to 20 minutes per day, as I understand it a company is required to ensure adequate breaks are given for monotonous tasks, but I can find very little clarification on where the line is drawn for this. for example some workers will spend their entire day at a workstation scanning and packing items and do nothing else, would they have a case here? if so what could they arguably be entitled to? Some others have slightly more responsibility and will apply labels to items that then need scanning on a nearby computer for dispatch and will also use that to print the aforementioned labels, they may also be required to act as goods in, signing for and unpacking deliveries for process in the previous fashion, would that count as a monotonous task? Also my current contract states that I am entitled to a 30 minute break can I refuse to sign an amendment to accept the single 20 minute break on the grounds that my contract states 30?
bob - 29-Mar-17 @ 6:51 PM
With regards to break entitlement, currently I work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. with a 15 minute break in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, the company is looking to reduce this to 20 minutes per day, as I understand it a company is required to ensure adequate breaks are given for monotonous tasks, but I can find very little clarification on where the line is drawn for this. for example some workers will spend their entire day at a workstation scanning and packing items and do nothing else, would they have a case here? if so what could they arguably be entitled to? Some others have slightly more responsibility and will apply labels to items that then need scanning on a nearby computer for dispatch and will also use that to print the aforementioned labels, they may also be required to act as goods in, signing for and unpacking deliveries for process in the previous fashion, would that count as a monotonous task? Also my current contract states that I am entitled to a 30 minute break can I refuse to sign an amendment to accept the single 20 minute break on the grounds that my contract states 30?
bob - 29-Mar-17 @ 6:30 PM
Bishop - Your Question:
So if you work 6hrs 15 minutes are you entitled to a 20 minute break?

Our Response:
Yes, any time worked over the six hours entitles you to a break. You would also have to read your contract to see what your employer specifies with regards to this matter, as some particular employers can 'opt out'. For instance, if there is a genuine need for continuity of production/service around the clock, eg. hospitals, residential institutions, care workers, press/tv/film/radio, public utilities, industries where machinery must be kept working 24 hours a day, research and development activities, agriculture etc.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:05 AM
So if you work 6hrs 15 minutesare you entitled to a 20 minute break?
Bishop - 26-Mar-17 @ 12:29 PM
Hi, I work for the nhs as a porter. We are currently on a 37.5 contract (five days a week; 8 hours with a 30 minute break) but they are thinking of making us work for 12 hours. How many breaks am I going to be entitled to? And how many? As they are saying we are entitled to 1.5 hours a shift, which I don't think that I am? Can you help?
Shaun - 17-Mar-17 @ 1:12 PM
I work in care I do 9 am till 11 pm then sleepover till 7 am next morning and end shift at 11.30 am we have never been told we have breaks client is 2 staff 24hrs. We work in clients house and have no separate facilities from him except a sleepover room / office. If we were to have breaks cover would be needed but no one is telling us anything .please can you advise.
Jo lee - 10-Mar-17 @ 7:48 AM
I work 12 hr plus day shifts in a care home. We get 3, 10 minutes break's per day as smoking breaks and no other breaks. In that 10 mins we have to eat as we're not allowed to eat in front of residents.we are always short staffed and we're lucky if we get a break. Before I hand in my noticeIs this legal?
Frantic fran - 8-Mar-17 @ 8:17 PM
In the article it states you are entitled to only 1 20 minute break even if you work a 12 hour shift but in the questions and answers you state that it's 20 minutes for every 6 hours so a 12 hour shift attracts 2x 20 minute breaks. Which is correct??
Nick - 8-Mar-17 @ 3:58 PM
Simon - Your Question:
I work as a support worker, I am on a 31 hour shift. I started at 2pm Sunday, slept in which as I understand is under WTR and I am working till 9pm Monday night. Ji have no structured breaks as we are to take time when we can. Is it legal to work such a long shift with no designated break?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract which will specify what breaks etc you should have and whether by signing the contract, you have opted out.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 7-Mar-17 @ 12:06 PM
petal - Your Question:
Hi Im in retail and work a 5.5 hour shift with no break, can you tell me if this is allowed.

Our Response:
As stipulated on the article, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. Unless you work over six hours then your employer is not working outside the European Working Time Directive and does not need to award you a break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 7-Mar-17 @ 11:29 AM
Hi there I work infront of a monitor for 8 hours with only one 30 minute lunch break. The Management say we can have a 10 minute break only if we earn it by getting sales ! Can they do this ?
Lucy - 6-Mar-17 @ 8:01 PM
I work as a support worker, I am on a 31 hour shift. I started at 2pm Sunday, slept in which as I understand is under WTR and I am working till 9pm Monday night. Ji have no structured breaks as we are to take time when we can. Is it legal to work such a long shift with no designated break?
Simon - 6-Mar-17 @ 4:37 PM
hi Im in retail and work a 5.5 hour shift with no break, can you tell me if this is allowed.
petal - 6-Mar-17 @ 3:08 PM
Andrea - Your Question:
Hi, I work at a desk using a monitor all day doing patient referrals and appointments. My hours of work are 9a.m to 6p.m on a Monday, 9a.m to 5:30p.m on a Tuesday and 9a.m to 5p.m the rest of the week. I get half hour lunch breaks and I believe it's not right. The employer says we can have a quick 5min break away to make coffee but I am sure that we are entitled to an hour lunch break, or even two extra 10 min breaks, morning and afternoon?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you are entitled to a 20 minute work break for every six hours you work. Once you have worked 12 hours then you are entitled to a 2x 20 minute breaks or 1x40 minute break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Mar-17 @ 2:37 PM
Hi, I work at a desk using a monitor all day doing patient referrals and appointments. My hours of work are 9a.m to 6p.m on a Monday, 9a.m to 5:30p.m on a Tuesday and 9a.m to 5p.m the rest of the week. I get half hour lunch breaks and I believe it's not right. The employer says we can have a quick 5min break away to make coffee but I am sure that we are entitled to an hour lunch break, or even two extra 10 min breaks, morning and afternoon?
Andrea - 6-Mar-17 @ 1:25 AM
Can I work from 6:30am to 9:30am and after that in the evening 6:00pm to 9:30pm in this same company. Do I need to have 11 hour break between those shifts ?
Mariola - 5-Mar-17 @ 10:19 PM
I am a chef and barmaid i work 12 hours 9am to 9pm shifts every day during week off on thursdays and do 14 hour shifts saturday and sunday 9am to 11pm and get told i cant have breaks due to kitchen or bar not closeing so i cant have a break what are my rights
Heft - 4-Mar-17 @ 9:02 PM
The one- Your Question:
Hi I work in security self employed I work 12 hours a day 60 hours a week am I entitled to a break as I think I am aloud 20 mins or so ?

Our Response:
As highlighted in the article, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. You may wish to read the terms of your contract (which by law should allow this) and if your employer is not working to the terms you should approach your employer about the matter directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 15-Feb-17 @ 12:55 PM
Hi I work in security self employed I work 12 hours a day 60 hours a week am I entitled to a break as I think I am aloud 20 minsor so ?
The one - 14-Feb-17 @ 8:43 PM
Hi. I am a support assistant in adult learning disability services. I work shift work, 7-9 hours each shift. I never get a break. We are alowed to eat and drink on shift but it must be around the service users (we can't for example go into a room with no Service users in it to eat, we are told to go and sit with them) and if a SU needs support with something (like the bathroom etc) we need to stop and help them. We aren't allowed to leave the building to eat and the house is so loud and chaotic that I find it hard to eat. My shifts aren't in a pattern (except alternative weekends and our day of in the week which I know is fine) but one or two times a week we can finish at 10pm and start at 7am the next morning. I was told because it is around-the-clock care that's ok and there is a loophole that means its legal. Is this right? Thanks
Willow - 27-Jan-17 @ 12:20 PM
Laura - Your Question:
Hi, My Names Laura, I work in Retail and I'm 16 and every 5 hours we get 15min is this right??

Our Response:
Young workers (above school leaving age and under 18) are usually entitled to: a 30 minute rest break if they work more than 4.5 hours. You would have to read your contract to see what it specifies, but as a rule you are not being awarded a long enough break. Therefore, you may wish to speak to your employer directly regarding this and/or ACAS if your employer does not agree, please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-Jan-17 @ 11:26 AM
Hi, My Names Laura, I work in Retail and I'm 16 and every 5 hours we get 15min is this right??
Laura - 25-Jan-17 @ 12:19 PM
Hi my work shift is 12 hours 4on 4off. 4nights and then 4days. I'm working as a driver for a valet parking. Can you tell me please how long break Im intitle to during 12h shift per day ? Thanks Regards
Rbow - 9-Jan-17 @ 8:10 PM
Emily80 - Your Question:
Hi, I work as a HGV driving instructor. We are tachograph exempt so don't fall Under EU driving regulations.We work a 10.5 hour day continuous with 3 students and no breaks. Where do we stand?

Our Response:
You would still stand within the EU working time directive regarding breaks, unless you have opted out. I advise you to check the terms of your contract and give ACAS a call if you feel you are being treated unfairly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Dec-16 @ 12:45 PM
Hi, I work as a HGV driving instructor. We are tachograph exempt so don't fall Under EU driving regulations. We work a 10.5 hour day continuous with 3 students and no breaks. Where do we stand?
Emily80 - 20-Dec-16 @ 2:32 AM
@susi - a 20 minute break is the law, but most private employers will negotiate around this - it depends upon the contract drawn up between you and what you agree to, especially if you are self-employed.
Rosa - 16-Dec-16 @ 1:54 PM
Hi, I work as a live-in carer and have just started work with a private client. He expects me to work 16 hours in a row (8am to midnight) for 7 days in a row. From the article I understand I can only get a 20 min break every day? Thank you.
susi - 16-Dec-16 @ 9:53 AM
JJ - Your Question:
My daughter works in a pub chain and often works a 12hr shift, she is given a single break but this is usually given in the first 2hrs of the shift leaving her with 10hrs to go and no break. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
Your daughter should first of all look at her contract and see what it specifies about breaks. However, as specified in the article your daughter is entitled to one break of 20 minutes for every six hours or more worked. Yet, in the likes of pub chains which are busy, staff often opt out of this agreement and take a break wherever possible near to the allotted time i.e in a quiet period. However, the EU Working Time Directive specifies a break should not be taken near the beginning or the end of a shift. Therefore, she may wish to bring this up directly with her employer if the law is being contravened here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 9-Dec-16 @ 2:27 PM
Snoopy - Your Question:
Hi, my daughter is 17 and works part-time in retail she works 8 and a half hours on a Saturday. She was been made to carry a full delivery up two lots of stairs on her own, also she started work at 9 this morning and had to take her lunch at 11.30-12 and doesn't finish work till 5.30 is this allowed? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Our Response:
If her contract says she has to carry and help out with deliveries, then it is part of the job. However, if she feels she is being unfairly treated, then she would have to speak with her line manager directly. While her lunch is early, it is not outside the European Working Time Directive guidelines, so her employer cannot be deemed to be at fault.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Dec-16 @ 2:27 PM
Hi, my daughter is 17 and works part-time in retail she works 8 and a half hours on a Saturday. She was been made to carry a full delivery up two lots of stairs on her own, also she started work at 9 this morning and had to take her lunch at 11.30-12 and doesn't finish work till 5.30 is this allowed? Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Snoopy - 3-Dec-16 @ 5:47 PM
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    With regards to break entitlement, currently I work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. with a 15 minute break in the morning and…
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