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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 17 Aug 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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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 7 p.m. I finish my shift around 6:30 a.m. on monday morning and and get home about 7 a.m., i have to start work 4 p.m. on Monday my concern is I am not getting my 9 hour rest period, I have spoken to my manager about it and he does not seem to be concerned can you please tell me if the company is right to do this. Thanks fred
Freddie - 17-Aug-17 @ 1:21 PM
I am having to work 10 hours with a 20 min break .my supervisoris the only other worker on that shift.she said that if we get busy during my break I will need to go back to work and leave my break and have 10 mins more later. So my break will be split into 10 minutes depending on if she needs to cut short my break to return to work. I won't be resting properly.not only that it's disgraceful to be working long hours with only a 20 minute break for anyone in this day and age.so ce shift work and part time work is now far more prevent in the working pattern it is making workers more tired and worn out. We should be entitled to 1 hour break for lunch .and 10 minutes coffee break like it used to be. Instead of reducing staff in each shift to keep it favourable to employers. This country is a work house mayhem
Caroline - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:08 AM
I have worked for my employer for 17 years, 8 full time, the last 9 partime, having returned from maternity leave. My contracted hours are Friday 9-3 and Saturday 9-4. My employer has always deducted 30 mins from my salary for each Saturday as I work over 6 hours. I have also worked regular voluntary overtime for 4 years on average 6 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week during school term time (as I have 2 children aged 8 and 10 years and cannot work extra hours during school holidays) for which I don't get holiday. However I did claim and was reluctantly paid allocated holiday pay backdated 2 years by my employer when I referred to recent tribunal findings earlier this year. Since this, my employers HR department said the company would have to look at company needs as I have worked such excessive hours and this could not continue. However, it has, so I in May asked my employer to confirm my accrued holiday entitlement to date for 2017 so it can be allocated and taken rather than me claiming for unpaid holiday again or my losing it. This resulted in my being summoned to a hasty meeting with my Regional manager who basically told me I either had to stop working voluntary overtime or, I could continue if I forego any further claims for additional holiday. Since this my employer has now reduced my holiday entitlement which is based on my contracted hours. Upon asking why my holiday entitlement is less than last year and previous years, I was told that they were now deducting the 30 minutes statutory break for working over 6 hours on a Saturday from my holiday entitlement. A practice not previously taken. I wrote to HR and said this has not happened previously and I know for a fact that full time and other part time staff do not have statutory breaks deducted from holiday entitlement, otherwise no one would ever receive their maximum holiday, but they said as my contract is for hours ( which it has been for 9 years) and not days, they were now deducting my statutory break. Instead of getting 92.4 hours holiday I am being given 84 hours pa. I feel I am being treated unfairly since making a claim internally for voluntary overtime holiday. Can I please ask for any advice firstly relating to this reduction of holiday entitlement and what I feel is a threat to drop any future claim for additional holiday for continued voluntary overtime otherwise I won't be allowed to work any overtime. The voluntary overtime I've worked now for 4 years, more than twice exceeds my contracted hours and salary, has been continuous, ie with a break of no more than a 3 month period (basically school term time) which I feel has now become an implied term in my contract. My employers refute this and said I had to either change my contract to increase my hours, which I can't due to child care. I tried to reason that if they were willing to increase my contract and I agreed, which I can't and to be honest don't want to, then my holiday entitlement would have to incr
Carrie - 11-Aug-17 @ 7:31 AM
Hazel - Your Question:
I work in a restaurant 6pm-11pm am I entitled to a 10minute break during shift?

Our Response:
By law, your employer does not have to give you a break until you have worked over six hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 10-Aug-17 @ 3:54 PM
I work in a restaurant 6pm-11pm am I entitled to a 10minute break during shift?
Hazel - 10-Aug-17 @ 2:31 PM
Be - Your Question:
I work 14 hours shift once a weak do I get a second break or no.

Our Response:
Yes, in line with the European Working Time Directive you areentitled to two x 20 minute breaks if you work more than 12 hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 31-Jul-17 @ 1:38 PM
I work 14 hours shift once a weak do I get a second break or no.
Be - 30-Jul-17 @ 5:34 AM
Michaella - Your Question:
Hi. I'm working at DHL. Daily I'm working 8hours normally and I can take only 30min break. But, if I do 10 hours overtime I've got still only 30min break. Is it legal, please? Thanks for answer! :)

Our Response:
Yes. Only if you work more than 12 hours would you be entitled to a second break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 28-Jul-17 @ 4:08 PM
Hi. I'm working at DHL. Daily I'm working 8hours normally and I can take only 30min break. But, if I do 10 hours overtime I've got still only 30min break. Is it legal, please? Thanks for answer! :)
Michaella - 28-Jul-17 @ 6:39 AM
AJ - Your Question:
Im a carer. I do two shifts some days 6.45am-2pm and 4-10.30pm. What breaks am I entitled to? And also can the gap between the two shifts be less than the two hours?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you are entitled to one 20 minute break for every six hours or more you work.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Jul-17 @ 2:48 PM
Im a carer. I do two shifts some days 6.45am-2pm and 4-10.30pm. What breaks am I entitled to? And also can the gap between the two shifts be less than the two hours?
AJ - 20-Jul-17 @ 7:47 AM
I work in the watersports industry and often work 12 hour shifts with around 15 minutes of beeak time
Luke Blake - 7-Jul-17 @ 7:55 PM
Abby123456 - Your Question:
I'm starting a job in a packaging factory with an agency, I will be doing 8 hours a day does this mean I only get a 30 minute break? I am 18 and was just wondering. Thanks !

Our Response:
Much depends upon what your employer wishes to give you. If you are working eight hours some employers wish to give an hour lunchbreak paid or unpaid. However, this depends upon the employer and is up to your employer's discretion. All should become clear when you read your employee's handbook.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-Jun-17 @ 12:07 PM
I'm starting a job in a packaging factory with an agency, I will be doing 8 hours a day does this mean I only get a 30 minute break? I am 18 and was just wondering. Thanks !
Abby123456 - 23-Jun-17 @ 6:34 PM
Tlchilvers - Your Question:
I work on a pc everyday however I sometimes am not given a break until after 3 hours of continuous work. Is this legal as I am working on a pc?

Our Response:
The same law applies if you are working on a PC as working in general, in that you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 4:18 PM
Julz - Your Question:
My 16 year old son has recently started his first job in busy shop and works 5 - 7 hour shifts. He's told by his employer that he's not entitled to a break unless he does 8 hour shifts, is this legal?

Our Response:
As a young worker, your son is legally entitled to a 30 minute rest break if he works more than 4.5 hours, please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 4:14 PM
I work on a pc everyday however I sometimes am not given a break until after 3 hours of continuous work. Is this legal as I am working on a pc?
Tlchilvers - 19-Jun-17 @ 3:51 PM
My 16 year old son has recently started his first job in busy shop and works 5 - 7 hour shifts. He's told by his employer that he's not entitled to a break unless he does 8 hour shifts, is this legal?
Julz - 19-Jun-17 @ 3:20 PM
Gaz - Your Question:
I work 11 1/2 hours and im being told I cant leave my work station to take my break because I get paid is this legal?

Our Response:
As a rule workers are allowed to spend their work break away from their desk or workstation regardless of whether they are being paid, unless specified otherwise in their employment contract. Therefore, you would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what it specifies. If the reasons why cannot be justified or if you feel you are being treated unfairly speak to your line manager directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 10:27 AM
I work 11 1/2 hours and im being told i cant leave my work station to take my break because i get paid is this legal?
Gaz - 16-Jun-17 @ 10:03 AM
I currently work for a large company and regually work long hours and days. Im sat here thinking it cant be legal for me to have just a one 10 min break for a 14 hour shift. What should i do?
CJ - 7-Jun-17 @ 3:25 PM
17 year old - Your Question:
I'm 17 and work in a pub cleaning the glasswear and such, regularly I made to work 10 to 11 hour shifts late into the night with only an hour break (sometimes at times that take me an couple of hours before the end of my shift before I can have a rest and sit down), also if I work for up to 7 hours sometimes I'm not given a break. Just wondering where I stand in these circumstances and if these are normal conditions for people of my age to work with.

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 (if possible this should be one continuous break), a daily rest of 12 hours and weekly rest of 48 hours. Please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 25-May-17 @ 2:14 PM
Mikki - Your Question:
I'very just started a job & my contract hadn't been done yet. I'm still in training but wondering what's the normal amount of hours for someone in my position. I was supposed to be doing a 5 hour day but now I'm having to cover for someone making my work day 13 hours.

Our Response:
If you were employed to work five hours and you are currently working 13, you can speak to your employer about this and try to reach a resolution, if working 13 hours does not suit. You don't say whether this is a temporary measure or a permanent one. Which ever way, you need to talk to your boss directly. For the first three or six months you will be on a probationary period, which gives both you and your employer an easy get-out clause if you are unhappy with your job, or if your employer feels you are not the right employee for the job.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 23-May-17 @ 2:22 PM
I'very just started a job & my contract hadn't been done yet. I'm still in training but wondering what's the normal amount of hours for someone in my position. I was supposed to be doing a 5 hour day but now I'm having to cover for someone making my work day 13 hours.
Mikki - 22-May-17 @ 10:15 PM
Jo - Your Question:
I do 12 hour day shifts in a nursing home. we often only get a 15 minute break from 7.50am to around 3.30pm when we manage to get a half hour lunch break. the work is hard and demanding and we get tired. some days we only manage a few minutes break here and there. surly this is wrong and putting residents at risk if carers are getting tired and stressed out ? Management aren't that approachable and we are basically told to get on with it !

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract which tells you when you should have your breaks. You should also check if there is a clause to agree to opt out, meaning if you cannot take your break at the allocated time, then your contract will say you are to take it as near as possible to the set time. Employees have a duty to care for their own health and safety and that of people affected by what they do, so should guard against excessively long hours and/or fatigue. However, if your employer is contravening the terms of your contract then you should discuss the issue directly with your employer. If your employers are dismissive and you feel strongly about the issue, you can also raise a grievance please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-May-17 @ 10:40 AM
I do 12 hour day shifts in a nursing home .. we often only get a 15 minute break from 7.50am to around 3.30pm when we manage to get a half hour lunch break ... the work is hard and demanding and we get tired .. some days we only manage a few minutes break here and there .. surly this is wrong and putting residents at risk if carers are getting tired and stressed out ? Management aren't that approachable and we are basically told to get on with it !
Jo - 21-May-17 @ 6:43 AM
I'm 17 and work in a pub cleaning the glasswear and such, regularly Imade to work 10 to 11 hour shifts late into the night with only an hour break (sometimes at times that take me an couple of hours before the end of my shift before I can have a rest and sit down), also if I work for up to 7 hours sometimes I'm not given a break. Just wondering where I stand in these circumstances and if these are normal conditions for people of my age to work with.
17 year old - 19-May-17 @ 9:05 PM
Mainly happy - Your Question:
I work in retail, we work 9-6 with an hour unpaid break in the middle. I'm happy with that considering they actually only have to give us 30mins. I'm a bit annoyed that I have to be in the shop 30mins before my shift starts unpaid when I open up or 10 mins before if I don't. If I'm not getting paid to do this do I actually have to show up?

Our Response:
Much depends upon what your contract states and what you have agreed to by signing the contract terms. But as a rule, you should be paid for this time, please see WorkSmart link here. You may wish to read your contract and give ACAS a call to find out your rights.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 11-May-17 @ 2:16 PM
I work in retail, we work 9-6 with an hour unpaid break in the middle. I'm happy with that considering they actually only have to give us 30mins. I'm a bit annoyed that I have to be in the shop 30mins before my shift starts unpaid when I open up or 10 mins before if I don't. If I'm not getting paid to do this do I actually have to show up?
Mainly happy - 10-May-17 @ 11:36 PM
I work in retail we have to be in the shopfor 8'45 even though we get paid fromm 9,00. So we got a 15 min break Inthe afternoon as well as our unpaid 30 min lunch break,we now have had the 15 min break stoppedbut we still have to start 15 min early ( unpaid)is this legal
annoyed - 9-May-17 @ 8:02 AM
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