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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 27 Sep 2019 | 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)


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 a 15 hour shift and is allowed a 20mins break do not seem right to me
Miss p - 27-Sep-19 @ 1:48 PM
Hi, I work 3 12 hour shifts a week, when working the place I work usually make staff there lunch and tea as staff don’t get chance to get to the shops or either time to make lunch in the service, although recently this has stopped due to some unknown reason, although we don even get a standard dinner break because we eat on shift! Is this legal or is this not, where paid the full 12 hour shift but obviously stat are working 12 hours hungry!
Kaylz - 9-Sep-19 @ 2:02 PM
I work in a betting shop and can do long days which start 8.15 to 22.15 which is 14 hours. What breaks are you legally entitled to? We get a 45 minute unpaid break which doesnt seem right for a shift that long.
P - 5-Aug-19 @ 12:05 AM
Hi,i work 8hours shift,for that i have got only 30min break,it’s after 4 hours.The job is very hard,i am caring boxes from 1 kilogram to 20kl an d more,walking and carry nonstop.More than 1t and a half every day and more than 10 kilometres,each day.Is this normal?
leonardo - 31-Jul-19 @ 7:33 AM
Hi, does anyone know what break you are entitled to in the UK if working 7pm - 4am nights? Thanks for any help.
DG - 22-Jul-19 @ 6:15 PM
I work 12hr shifts and only receive 30mins break.i do a very physical job as a KP and think I should be getting at least 1hr break..is there anything the law says about this???
Hardworker - 28-May-19 @ 9:54 AM
My partner works at a big arena where he can work from 9am until midnight and only receives 2x 20 minute breaks. They include his walk to and from their cabin (which is almost the whole length on the car park since he's always on the main entrance) and if he goes to get any food from a restaurant over the road. By the time he has got his food or got to the cabin, it's time to get back to his position. Today he started at 7am and will finish at 8pm and had 1x 20 minute break at 11am and was told he wasn't entitled to another. What is he entitled to?
Jo - 18-May-19 @ 3:50 PM
How many breaks are we entitled to on a 12 hr shift starting at 4pm to 2am whilst working on a repetitive production line. I was stacking boxes on oranges which weigh a ton and have to stack them above my reach and take them bk down so my arms and back is killing after a few hours and we only get 0ne 20 minute break in which time we have to change our clothes fully, eat at the canteen so have to queue. Have a cig in smoking area which is a few mins walk from building then get fully changed again. One break just doesn't seem enough when we used to get two15 mins and an half hour in an 8 hour shift. Please help
Kingy - 29-Apr-19 @ 11:45 PM
I also work with children with autism and learning disabilities . We work 12 hour shifts but do not receive ANY break at all. We are allowed a drink but must not sit to drink
Lee - 2-Apr-19 @ 10:26 PM
I work 12 hours a day and 20 x 2 minutes I feel is not enough. 30 minutes would be better. I never feel refreshed. As soon as I've been to the toilet and eaten itsback to work. The job I do is hard mentally and physically. I look after children with autism.
TK - 22-Mar-19 @ 12:27 PM
Hi, I work in a warehouse with many repetitive jobs. I was given a particular job which involved scanning items and placing them in bags, you literally do not move anything but your arms/hands for hours on end. My feet were in agony on day 3 & 4 so I asked to be swapped to a job which I was trained in and could do well but it didn’t materialize (there are plenty of people there who actually like this job and don’t like the job I was asking to do). Day 5 I was in complete agony and went to see manager about filling in accident book, he said he didn’t know where accident book was and laughed, I did put him straight about it not being a laughing matter. I asked for a 15 minute unpaid break to rest in canteen as nowhere suitable in warehouse to rest properly but was told no. Is there any action I can take and what are the legal requirements for the company regarding matters like these in case they arise in future? Many Thanks Phil.
Phil - 18-Feb-19 @ 7:51 AM
I working 10hours a day as metal fabricator,how many paid breaks should I have during a shift?
Mario - 4-Dec-18 @ 7:58 PM
Hi, what is the safest way to carry a heavy item over a long distance from the stores for example (15 KG over 200M). Is it close to the chest or is it on the shoulder and is there any that is dangerous?
Dave - 30-Nov-18 @ 11:16 PM
I work nights with disabilities.My work time was 8pm to 8am with 1 hour break. (30 mins paid) Last year my hours were changed to 8.30pm start 8am finish with no break during the night. Is this legal??? When I approached union and management was told it's a national problem and therefore unions have to sort it out nationally.
Bridie - 5-Nov-18 @ 10:31 AM
I work in the care industry and work in a 24 hour shift from 7.00am to 00.00 17 hour day then go to bed until 7.00am I could be woken if their is any incidents throughout the night. What breaks am I entitled to please as we dont get any officially.
steven - 1-Nov-18 @ 7:53 AM
Hi there, I work at a burger chain restaurant and I usually work for 14-15 hours a day with 1 hour break in between, so from 9am to 15 15to16 break time then16till 23:30. Also they want to force me to have 2 other 20 mins break for each shift when I've told them that I don't want to. 1 break its fine for me and also I would accept 2hours break if its all together and they still want to force me to have that 20 min break on each shift. I think that it's my right to ask for the 20 minus break for every 6 hours of work and not to get forced to have it. So please anyone can explain to me if this is legal or not because to me doesn't seem to be at all.
Klejvis - 29-Oct-18 @ 12:18 PM
I tend to work between 7-10 hours finishing around 5/6am. I then start work at 12pm the same day, to work a 18 hour shift. I only get two 20 minutes breaks. Is any of this legal?
Pies - 22-Oct-18 @ 6:13 PM
What breaks paid and unpaid are you entitled to whilst working an 11 hour shift in retail. Start time 8am and Finish time 6.45/7pm. Thanks
M - 18-Oct-18 @ 7:07 AM
Hi there. I work in a care home which consists of 12 hour shifts. We are given an hour break which is unpaid, if I'm understanding the law properly though should we not get paid for 20 minutes of that break?
Alice - 13-Oct-18 @ 3:07 AM
Hi. Currently in working 4h shift in warehouse. No break time for me. If I want to stay overtime for 2 more h do I have to have a break time? As I understand from you I can work 6h without break time. Thanks in advance.
Sana - 12-Oct-18 @ 4:32 PM
My employer deducts half an hour off us everytime we do a 6 hour shift.. Is this right. Thank you...
Ans - 30-Sep-18 @ 11:49 AM
Hi, We’re currently being changed to a new working pattern with our working day consisting of 12hrs 20mins. 6:40 till 19:00. What breaks would we be entitled to? Many thanks Tom
Tom - 11-Sep-18 @ 3:18 PM
I work in a chilled environment ranging from 2 degrees to 4 degrees. I work for 8 hours and get 1 thirty minute break onlyin that period. Am I entitled to take further breaks?....is one thirty minute break legal working in this chilled environment
Loz - 3-Sep-18 @ 5:33 PM
Hi I work 4 hours from 10 till 2 then 3 and half hours 3 till 6.30 with the same company but in different establishments am I entitled to a break I know I have an hour in between unpaid but I am still working 7 and a half hours in the day .
Kaz - 31-Aug-18 @ 7:03 PM
Hi My employer won’t agree to my request to the change of my hours to 9 to 3pm with no lunch break from my current working hours of 9 till 5.30pm with a half hour unpaid lunch break as they are saying that by law they have to give me a 20 min break? Is this right as I thought it was only after you had worked 6 hours that you were entitled to a break?
Anna - 16-Aug-18 @ 11:23 AM
I work in a hospital 12.1/2 hrs. We are told we have a courtesy break for 10 mins in morning which we dont always get. We get two 1/2 hr breaks for lunch and dinner. One is paid. Other workers inthere have 9 to 5 shifts and are entitled to 10 mins in morning and 1hr at lunch regardless of position. From clinicians to kitchen, maintenance etc. I feel this is discriminatory practice. Can you advise?
Nel - 13-Aug-18 @ 4:49 PM
Hi I work offshore on a boat in a manual intensive job.I work 12 hour nights, 7 days a week for between 4 and 6 weeks. I only receive 1 break for around 20 to 25 minutes per day. Is this legal as i am working everyday for 4 weeks solid?
Japm2015 - 8-Aug-18 @ 7:34 AM
I'm executive chef at a retirement community. I share hours with my sous chef, there are only two of us. We work from 7:15am - 7:00pm 4 days a week, they require us to take an hour long unpaid break and a 45 min. unpaid break in order to only pay us for a "10 hour shift". They wont let me hire a part time person in order for us to have better schedules unless we are willing to give up our own hours. Is this legal in Wa state?
Rebecca - 22-Jul-18 @ 7:32 PM
I work 10 - 12 hours/day driving heavy plant at a quarry. Does this come under the standard workplace rest laws or the HGV rest laws due to the size and concentration needed ? These shovels/excavators do not possess a tachograph.
Rooster - 2-Jul-18 @ 10:01 PM
I work 20 hours a week and my shifts are 9-3.30 with 30 min unpaid lunch do I have to take the 30 mins unpaid lunch as if i don't I'm not legal intightaled to a lunch as it would be 6 hours... I've been told I have to take my 30min lunch by law but I don't think it's right
Kate - 30-Jun-18 @ 9:39 PM
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