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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 14 Feb 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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[Add a Comment]
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
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?
JJ - 2-Dec-16 @ 8:15 PM
STRONG ARM - Your Question:
My employer is saying in a 12 hour period we can not sit down and only given us a 30 min. Lunch & 2---15min breaks. Its a mental institution/ nursing home. Are they aloud to keep us from setting down in those 12 hours of work when all residents/patients are taken care of. How many breaks in a 12 hour work period are we entitled too and are they allowed to keep us from setting down if work is complete.

Our Response:
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. Therefore, even on a 12 hour shift, you would still only be legally entitled to ONE rest break. But, you would certainly be able to sit down during it. If your employers is not allowing this, you should take it up with your employer directly and if nothing is done, you could raise a grievance, please see gov.uk link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 29-Nov-16 @ 12:26 PM
My employer is saying in a 12 hour period we can not sit down and only given us a 30 min. Lunch & 2---15min breaks... Its a mental institution/ nursing home.. Are they aloud to keep us from setting down in those 12 hours of work when all residents/patients are taken care of...How many breaks in a 12 hour work period are we entitled too and are they allowed to keep us from setting down if work is complete.....
STRONG ARM - 29-Nov-16 @ 2:23 AM
Darren - Your Question:
I normally work 8.5 he's per day, with a 30 min lunch break. If I work away/travel for work purposes and I work 12 he's, my employer automatically takes another 30 mins from my hours claiming that under H&S (?!) regs I must have 30 mins after every 6 he's worked. Where can I get info to show this is not the case?

Our Response:
Please see ACAS link here which show you are entitled to a 20 minute break where you work 'longer' than six hours, meaning you are entitled to another 20 minute break where you work longer than 12 hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 1-Nov-16 @ 12:26 PM
kate - Your Question:
Hi I work in a call centre its part time I do roughly between 20 -25 hours a week. Our job is staring at computers all day and taking phone calls we are only given a 20 min break in 10 hours is that correct?

Our Response:
Yes, your break time conforms with the European Working Time Directive legislation. Once you work over 12 hours, then you would be entitled to an additional break of 20 minutes.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 1-Nov-16 @ 11:07 AM
I normally work 8.5 he's per day, with a 30 min lunch break. If I work away/travel for work purposes and I work 12 he's, my employer automatically takes another 30 mins from my hours claiming that under H&S (?!) regs I must have 30 mins after every 6 he's worked. Where can I get info to show this is not the case?
Darren - 31-Oct-16 @ 5:37 PM
Hi I work in a call centre its part time I do roughly between 20 -25 hours a week. Our job is staring at computers all day and taking phone calls we are only given a 20 min break in 10 hours is that correct?
kate - 31-Oct-16 @ 1:40 PM
Smithy - Your Question:
Iv worked 14 hour shifts with no break starting at 07.45 finishing 22.45 then the next day I start at the same time not having the 11 hours rest break plus I'm contract on a hourly rate of £8 per hour but because my job means I have to drive to different places of work I'm allocated that time for driving. They only pay me minimum wage because of my travel time. This is not in my contract travel time is classed as work time so why am I not being paid my contracted hourly rate

Our Response:
You would need to read your contract to see what it stipulates about your break times and I advise you contact ACAS regarding this to see if your employer is working within legal guildelines or not.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 12-Oct-16 @ 11:48 AM
Iv worked 14 hour shifts with no break starting at 07.45 finishing 22.45 then the next day I start at the same time not having the 11 hours rest break plus I'm contract on a hourly rate of £8 per hour but because my job means I have to drive to different places of work I'm allocated that time for driving. They only pay me minimum wage because of my travel time.This is not in my contract travel time is classed as work time so why am I not being paid my contracted hourly rate
Smithy - 11-Oct-16 @ 4:45 PM
Paul - Your Question:
Can you sleep on a break when working nights in a care home

Our Response:
It depends whether your contract says you can - you will need to re-read it.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 10-Oct-16 @ 12:44 PM
Can you sleep on a break when working nights in a care home
Paul - 8-Oct-16 @ 9:45 PM
Hi, I work at a pub and am not yet 18. However, I worked a 10 hour shift without a break, I got a meal but had to eat whilst working and I didn't sit or rest throughout the time. Is this allowed?
Confused - 2-Oct-16 @ 11:16 PM
Knowledgeispower - Your Question:
Just a quick question that I thought I knew the answer to but can't find any evidence online to back it up. I work 14 hour shifts working in a mental health care setting where we are not entitled to any breaks where we can physically leave the premises due to always needing a minimum number of staff on site. Due to this any breaks we do get (as and when its convenient no set time) are fully paid. I have worked in previous places with the same shifts/breaks and when working there was told that a hot meal was included at no cost due to not being allowed to have a official designated break. But where I work now with the same shift/break pattern have just taken away our hot meals (we paid for these as they weren't provided without charge like the previous place I worked) just wanted to check if this was right. Thanks in advance

Our Response:
All the information you need to know should be contained in your contract. If it isn't contained in your contract, then providing you with food would have been at your employer's discretion and therefore not enforceable.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 29-Sep-16 @ 3:01 PM
Just a quick question that I thought I knew the answer to but can't find any evidence online to back it up. I work 14 hour shifts working in a mental health care setting where we are not entitled to any breaks where we can physically leave the premises due to always needing a minimum number of staff on site. Due to this any breaks we do get (as and when its convenient no set time) are fully paid. I have worked in previous places with the same shifts/breaks and when working there was told that a hot meal was included at no cost due to not being allowed to have a official designated break. But where I work now with the same shift/break pattern have just taken away our hot meals (we paid for these as they weren't provided without charge like the previous place I worked) just wanted to check if this was right. Thanks in advance
Knowledgeispower - 29-Sep-16 @ 12:49 AM
I do 12 -14 hour shifts with no break re-enablement work am i allowed a break im 51
DawnBev1 - 27-Sep-16 @ 9:19 PM
I.am just starting a job as a hca and I am doing 15 hr shifts what breaks am I entitled to Please also I am doing 3 days in a row like this before a day off is this right?
Hellsy - 23-Sep-16 @ 1:49 PM
Jackie - Your Question:
I work 35 hours in a split shift from 7am till 12pm and then from 4pm till 9pm have been told I'm not entitled to any break due to 6 hour rule. Is this correct

Our Response:
Yes, you are entitled to a break for every six hours or more you work, meaning you cannot work more than six hours continuously without a break. However, as you are working two split shifts of five hours, then your employer does not have to award you a break. You may wish to read your contract to see what it stipulates.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Sep-16 @ 2:15 PM
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