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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 4 Dec 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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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
Hello there, I’ve worked many years in retail and on straight night shifts 9:30pm-6:00am. We currently get 2 paid 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute unpaid lunch break. It’s unfair that we are locked in within the store and not free to leave to get lunch or coffees etc .....is this legal? if I’m reading it right if the employer requires us to stay on premises for lunchtime (30 minutes) then is the employer not supposed to pay for the 30 minutes? please let me know.
thectcman@outlook.co - 18-Nov-18 @ 5:17 AM
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
Kaz - Your Question:
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.

Our Response:
If the jobs are two separate contracts, then you would not be entitled to a break. You would have to read your contract(s) to find out what your entitlement is.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-Sep-18 @ 2:58 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
Anna - Your Question:
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?

Our Response:
If your contract says you are to work 9-5.30pm, then your employer has every right to refuse you if you wish to change your contracted hours, regardless of your breaktime allocation.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 16-Aug-18 @ 2:56 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
Nel - Your Question:
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 in there 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?

Our Response:
Your break times fall in line with the European Working Time Directive, so if you have agreed to the break times by signing the contract there is little you can do. Likewise, the clerical/administrative workers may be employed by a different company with different company policies. However, if you feel you are being treated unfairly, please see the link here .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 14-Aug-18 @ 1:38 PM
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
Japm2015 - Your Question:
HiI 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?

Our Response:
Unfortunately, it is. If you work over 12 hours then you would be allowed another break. You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see what it says and if you have signed to opt out of the 48-hour working week (if you are on a permanent contract). Please see the link here. If you are self-employed, then you agree your own contract without restriction.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 9-Aug-18 @ 10:28 AM
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
Shola - Your Question:
So just started my new job as mental health worker. I'm on a 12 hour shift starting 7;30am until 8:00pm. They have sent me o my 2 hour break first at 10:00am to return to work at 12:00 and work for the last 8 hours without a break. Is this allowed?

Our Response:
By law, you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day. The break must be given to you during your shift and not at the beginning or end of it. You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract in order to find out what your break entitlement is and then speak to your employer directly if it does not correspond.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 28-Jun-18 @ 11:23 AM
So just started my new job as mental health worker. I'm on a 12 hour shift starting 7;30am until 8:00pm. They have sent me o my 2 hour break first at 10:00am to return to work at 12:00 and work for the last 8 hours without a break. Is this allowed?
Shola - 27-Jun-18 @ 11:23 AM
Sj - Your Question:
Hey I work in a nusery and if been doing more hours to help them out I work 9 till 3 and they say I'm not entitled to a break is that right?

Our Response:
Only if you work over the six hours are you entitled to a break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 15-Jun-18 @ 10:18 AM
Hey I work in a nusery and if been doing more hours to help them out I work 9 till 3 and they say I'm not entitled to a break is that right?
Sj - 14-Jun-18 @ 12:24 AM
My daughter has had her certificates taken down for food heigen and was told they will put them back up when she deserves it and also has no contract but has been told she has to give 2 weeks notice if she wants her holidays is this illegal
Kez - 10-Jun-18 @ 9:36 PM
Spider - Your Question:
When out driving work work say when l drove my 4 and a half hours or my 6 hours driving l need to stop for 1 hour that's my dinner break is that true

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to find out what your allocated break is.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 4-Jun-18 @ 3:39 PM
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