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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 31 Mar 2018 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Kmoh - Your Question:
My son is in his first year apprenticeship in a hotel. He turned 18 last week. Can they now ask him to work a 12 hour shift? And can they insist on him working until close time after late night functions?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions in his employment contract to find out this information.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Apr-18 @ 2:04 PM
My son is in his first year apprenticeship in a hotel.He turned 18 last week.Can they now ask him to work a 12 hour shift? And can they insist on him working until close time after late night functions?
Kmoh - 31-Mar-18 @ 3:33 PM
I work i am paid for 10 hour 9pm-7pmand paid for the full 10 hours for a waking night, respite care, during this time I have no break and i am unable to leave the room were I am based, only to go to the toilet! When i asked why t no break i was informed that I was to get paid for my travel time, this can be up to 1 hour way meaning i leave home at 8pm and 8pm. should we be able to have a break or a compensatory rest break at another time?
tired! - 27-Mar-18 @ 10:40 PM
Im working on a 12h shift and my employer is saying that my break should be at mid point and 1h30m to each sides so doing some math around 4h30mito 7h30max work time is he rigth???
Filipe - 26-Mar-18 @ 10:09 AM
Carer hours are 7am til 6.15pm the 7.30pm til 11pm is one hour the right entitlement
Sjde - 17-Mar-18 @ 8:12 AM
I work as a carer I do 12 hour nights but only get paid 11 hours and should get a hour break but we don't get a break not enough staff are they allowed to take that hour pay off us
Dawn - 16-Mar-18 @ 9:42 AM
@Sjde - If you are contracted for 16 hours, then you would be allowed a break for every six hours or more you work. So, you would be entitled to a minimum 2 x 20 minute breaks spaced throughout the day. It's a long day for you!
Cece - 13-Mar-18 @ 11:13 AM
I work 7am till 11pm what are my break entitlements
Sjde - 12-Mar-18 @ 3:24 PM
@lucky - I think your employer can opt out of giving a break to a retail worker (if say there is quiet times in the shop when you can take your break to eat your lunch etc). You'd have to read your contract that says what type of break you can have. I worked in retail and we used to take our breaks in quiet periods when no customers were in. If you work in a constantly busy shop then it wouldn't be right. I'd give Acas a call.
JulesN - 8-Mar-18 @ 11:52 AM
I work as an LGV instructor where tachographs are not required. Do I come under the the driver regulations or normal working time regulations?
smudge - 7-Mar-18 @ 8:59 PM
I work over 8hr days, 5 days a week, I got offered a contract 1 year 4 mths after start date (first thing in writing), when I started my job I was advised no breaks as shops can't be left unattended at any point except 2 min toilet break if I need to go but must come straight back. There is nothing in my contract regarding breaks or health and safety. I work in shops on my own, is this correct?
Lucky - 7-Mar-18 @ 10:45 AM
Naz - Your Question:
I work 4 hours and the boss as given 5 mins paid bread is this right or not??

Our Response:
Your boss could choose not to give you a break. Your employer does not have to give you a break until you have worked for six hours or more.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 27-Feb-18 @ 3:03 PM
Queenjomati - Your Question:
I often work shifts in a shop on my own. I can't take any breaks but my employer deduct break time from my wages each day. Please advise

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what break time you are allowed. If you work in a shop alone, then it might be that you have to take your break in quieter periods in the shop.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 27-Feb-18 @ 11:31 AM
I work 4 hours and the boss as given 5 mins paid bread is this right or not??
Naz - 26-Feb-18 @ 9:49 PM
I often work shifts in a shop on my own. I can't take any breaks but my employer deduct break time from my wages each day. Please advise
Queenjomati - 26-Feb-18 @ 2:14 PM
Mark - Your Question:
I'm work in fire warden I work full time 6 days my break time is only 30 minutes can you advise me is legal thanksTariq

Our Response:
As specified in the article, under the Working Time Directive you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. The answer to your question will be contained in the terms and conditions of your contract, or employee handbook.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-Feb-18 @ 12:38 PM
I'm work in fire wardenI work full time 6 daysmy break time is only 30 minutes can you advise me is legal thanks Tariq
Mark - 20-Feb-18 @ 6:40 PM
alanstuart100 - Your Question:
My wife works 3 x 12 hour shift's.One hour is unpaid and her employer splits this hour into one 15 min break morning and afternoon and 30 minutes for dinner should they also be giving there staff a 20 minute paid break.

Our Response:
A break can be paid or unpaid, it is at your wife's employer's discretion.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 13-Feb-18 @ 10:29 AM
Afsha - Your Question:
I work 2 days as a nursery nurse. I used to work 9 till 6pm with 15 minutes break and 1hour lunchbreak. Now its changed and start at 9:30 till 6pm and get 15 minutes break and 30 minutes lunch break. Is this right?

Our Response:
There is nothing in this arrangement that contravenes the European Working Time Directive, meaning your breaktimes are in keeping with the law.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 12-Feb-18 @ 3:19 PM
My wife works 3 x 12 hour shift's. One hour is unpaid and her employer splits this hour into one 15 min break morning and afternoon and 30 minutes for dinner should they also be giving there staff a 20 minute paid break.
alanstuart100 - 12-Feb-18 @ 12:34 PM
I work 2 days as a nursery nurse. I used to work 9 till 6pm with 15 minutes break and 1hour lunchbreak. Now its changed and startat 9:30 till 6pm and get 15 minutes break and 30 minutes lunch break. Is this right?
Afsha - 12-Feb-18 @ 8:07 AM
1 work 39 hours a week in hour lunch none paid. 20 days for holiday a year no tea breaks. Work off any hospital appointments. I am also a type 2 diabetic and asmatic on inhalter and montelukast medication. Lower cronic back pain arthritis in lower back all appointments with physio have to be made up or holidays used for this
Diva - 4-Feb-18 @ 9:04 PM
Aj123 - Your Question:
I am currently working at a care home and am doing a 9am-7pm shift on Friday. As I haven't worked 10 hours before what sort of break would I legally be entitled to?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 2-Feb-18 @ 12:52 PM
I am currently working at a care home and am doing a 9am-7pm shift on Friday. As I haven't worked 10 hours before what sort of break would I legally be entitled to?
Aj123 - 31-Jan-18 @ 10:43 PM
I work in a private hospital working 12.5 hrs shift. We have just been taken over. We have never had breaks before as we eat with the clients we work with. They are saying now that we have to have an unpaid break old 1hr 37mins each shift we work. And we have got to got from working 3days a w/o to doing atwo 3 day then two 4day each month. Is this within there rights.
Nic - 19-Jan-18 @ 12:25 PM
happy - Your Question:
I have a 37hrs contact at work they say I have to take two breaks, I have a 20mins I get paid for then a 30 mins I dont get paid for do I have the right to leave 30mins early? no breaks are writen up in my contact.

Our Response:
Your employer is working within the European Time Directive guidelines, by giving you a 20 minute break for every six hours you work. However, you would have to discuss this additional breaktime and whether you can take the time rather than the break with your employer directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 11-Jan-18 @ 11:15 AM
I have a 37hrs contact at work they say i have to take two breaks, i have a 20mins i get paid for then a 30 mins i dont get paid for do i have the right to leave 30minsearly? no breaks are writen up in my contact.
happy - 10-Jan-18 @ 11:44 AM
WT - Your Question:
I work nights from 9.00pm till 7.00am working at a computer, I have one 30 mins unpaid break, is this right ?

Our Response:
Night workers should not work more than an average of eight hours in 24-hour period. This average is usually calculated over a 17 week reference period, but it can be over a longer period if the workers and employer agree. Regular overtime is included in the average and workers can't opt out of this limit, please see ACAS link here . As specified in the article, 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. Only when you go over 12 hours would you be entitled to another break. However, you may wish to read the terms of your employment contract and speak to ACAS directly regarding the length of your working shift to see whether this complies with the European Working Time Directive.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 8-Jan-18 @ 10:03 AM
I work nights from 9.00pm till 7.00am working at a computer, I have one 30 mins unpaid break, is this right ?
WT - 7-Jan-18 @ 6:22 PM
Nana - Your Question:
Friend has worked 12 nights as security gaurd. He still has three nights hes expected to work. He works 12 hour shifts then drives an hour and half to get there and an hour and half to get home. Hes at breaking point. He wont just walk away as he doesnt want ti be on benifits also he would be sanctioned if he just gave up his job. He shouldnt be driving at all as hes shattered. Please advice me

Our Response:
You can see more regarding the hours of work your friend can be expected to do via the link here . Employers must follow the general rules on working hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 5-Jan-18 @ 12:40 PM
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