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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 22 May 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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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
Freya - Your Question:
I currently (not for long) work in a hotel bar, tonight is a good example of a standard day, I did a 14 hour shift with one 30 minute break. I'm back again in 8 hours to do the same thing. I know it's over the 20 minute rule but given the length of my shift is such a short break still right? Also can I complain at the legality of having less than 10 hours between shifts?

Our Response:
Your working hours should be contained in the terms and condictions of your contract. An individual worker can agree to work more than 48 hours a week if you consent to an 'opt out' agreement. Opt out agreements are quite common in the hospitality trade. It means employers and workers can agree that the night work limits, rights to rest periods and rest breaks may be varied, with the workers receiving 'compensatory rest'. If you have agreed by signing your contract to opt out, then if you feel you are being treated unfairly any negotiations must be made directly with your employer.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 8-May-17 @ 10:50 AM
I currently (not for long) work in a hotel bar, tonight is a good example of a standard day, I did a 14 hour shift with one 30 minute break. I'm back again in 8 hours to do the same thing. I know it's over the 20 minute rule but given the length of my shift is such a short break still right? Also can I complain at the legality of having less than 10 hours between shifts?
Freya - 7-May-17 @ 3:36 AM
Paula - Your Question:
I am working weekends 8am-5pm and Ive 1hr unpaid break. Is it legal? I am here 9hrs but getting paid 8hrs so no even 15mints paid break.

Our Response:
You would need to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what it specifies. If your contract says your break is one hour unpaid, then you are entitled to take this. In the first instance, you should speak to your employer informally. If you are not satisfied with the result and your employer is still not issuing you with a break in line with the terms of your contract, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-May-17 @ 1:39 PM
Rossco - Your Question:
I am a restaurant manager and my team have expressed concern that they have been unable to take breaks due to busy periods on shift but are still having the pay taken off of their wages. I brought it up with my HR/Accounts manager and she said that's the way they do it and it wouldn't be changing.I can't find any info on the legality of this and I don't really know what to tell my team - it seems a bit unfair to dock pay for breaks that they are unable to take (I include myself in this).

Our Response:
If the contract says they are allowed breaks, then your employer has to abide by the terms of it, as much as the employees do. If your employer has ignored this and the employees wish to take it further, then I suggest they raise a grievance, please see link here. If they all feel the same, then they/you may wish to raise is collectively and stating the terms of the contract. You may also wish to give Acas a call if you need the issue further clarifying.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-May-17 @ 11:35 AM
I am a restaurant manager and my team have expressed concern that they have been unable to take breaks due to busy periods on shift but are still having the pay taken off of their wages. I brought it up with my HR/Accounts manager and she said that's the way they do it and it wouldn't be changing. I can't find any info on the legality of this and I don't really know what to tell my team - it seems a bit unfair to dock pay for breaks that they are unable to take (I include myself in this).
Rossco - 3-May-17 @ 2:57 AM
I am working weekends 8am-5pm and Ive 1hr unpaid break. Is it legal? I am here 9hrs but getting paid 8hrs so no even 15mints paid break.
Paula - 29-Apr-17 @ 11:58 AM
Yoda - Your Question:
I work in a call centre doing 8 hour shifts We have 1 30 minute break but this is often after only 2.5 hours work, this means we have to work the rest of the shift with no breaks and are not allowed to leave our desks. Are they allowed to do this

Our Response:
You would have to read your contract to see what it says. You don't say what hours your shifts are. If they are 11-7pm for instance, it may be understandable that your employer would offer you a lunch at 1.30pm. As a rule your employer should not issue your break near the beginning or the end of the day, but it should be somewhere in the middle of the shift. That said, your employer is not acting illegally as they are not making you work longer than six hours without a break. If you are object to the way the breaktimes are organised, you may wish to discuss this directly with your employer.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 18-Apr-17 @ 11:19 AM
I work in a call centre doing 8 hour shifts We have 1 30 minute break but this is often after only 2.5 hours work, this means we have to work the rest of the shift with no breaks and are not allowed to leave our desks. Are they allowed to do this
Yoda - 17-Apr-17 @ 11:08 AM
LMarie - Your Question:
Hi; I work as a carer in a nursing home we work from 7.45-20.15 we are currently having a 20 minute break around 11am a 30 minute break at 14.00 and another 20 minute break at 17.00 the company is looking to dropping our breaks to one 10 minute break at 11.00 and another 10 minute break at 17.00 is this legal?

Our Response:
You are allowed one 20 minute break for every six hours or more that you work. This means once you work more than 12 hours you will be allowed another break of 20 minutes.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 13-Apr-17 @ 12:30 PM
Hi; I work as a carer in a nursing home we work from 7.45-20.15 we are currently having a 20 minute break around 11am a 30 minute break at 14.00 and another 20 minute break at 17.00 the company is looking to dropping our breaks to one 10 minute break at 11.00 and another 10 minute break at 17.00 is this legal?
LMarie - 12-Apr-17 @ 5:29 PM
I work 12 hour shifts. I get two half hour breaks. The agency are taking an hour and half each day. The company pays it's employees for there two half hour breaks. My contract states nothing about breaks either. Please advise
Amy - 6-Apr-17 @ 5:22 PM
Gaz - Your Question:
I work 11.5 hours a day how long a break am I entitled to

Our Response:
You are entitled to one break of 20 minutes. Once you work over 12 hours, by law you are entitled to another 20 minute break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Apr-17 @ 2:42 PM
I work 11.5 hours a day how long a break am I entitled to
Gaz - 6-Apr-17 @ 9:51 AM
With regards to break entitlement, currently I work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. with a 15 minute break in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, the company is looking to reduce this to 20 minutes per day, as I understand it a company is required to ensure adequate breaks are given for monotonous tasks, but I can find very little clarification on where the line is drawn for this. for example some workers will spend their entire day at a workstation scanning and packing items and do nothing else, would they have a case here? if so what could they arguably be entitled to? Some others have slightly more responsibility and will apply labels to items that then need scanning on a nearby computer for dispatch and will also use that to print the aforementioned labels, they may also be required to act as goods in, signing for and unpacking deliveries for process in the previous fashion, would that count as a monotonous task? Also my current contract states that I am entitled to a 30 minute break can I refuse to sign an amendment to accept the single 20 minute break on the grounds that my contract states 30?
bob - 29-Mar-17 @ 6:51 PM
With regards to break entitlement, currently I work 8.5 hours a day 5 days a week. with a 15 minute break in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon, the company is looking to reduce this to 20 minutes per day, as I understand it a company is required to ensure adequate breaks are given for monotonous tasks, but I can find very little clarification on where the line is drawn for this. for example some workers will spend their entire day at a workstation scanning and packing items and do nothing else, would they have a case here? if so what could they arguably be entitled to? Some others have slightly more responsibility and will apply labels to items that then need scanning on a nearby computer for dispatch and will also use that to print the aforementioned labels, they may also be required to act as goods in, signing for and unpacking deliveries for process in the previous fashion, would that count as a monotonous task? Also my current contract states that I am entitled to a 30 minute break can I refuse to sign an amendment to accept the single 20 minute break on the grounds that my contract states 30?
bob - 29-Mar-17 @ 6:30 PM
Bishop - Your Question:
So if you work 6hrs 15 minutes are you entitled to a 20 minute break?

Our Response:
Yes, any time worked over the six hours entitles you to a break. You would also have to read your contract to see what your employer specifies with regards to this matter, as some particular employers can 'opt out'. For instance, if there is a genuine need for continuity of production/service around the clock, eg. hospitals, residential institutions, care workers, press/tv/film/radio, public utilities, industries where machinery must be kept working 24 hours a day, research and development activities, agriculture etc.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:05 AM
So if you work 6hrs 15 minutesare you entitled to a 20 minute break?
Bishop - 26-Mar-17 @ 12:29 PM
Hi, I work for the nhs as a porter. We are currently on a 37.5 contract (five days a week; 8 hours with a 30 minute break) but they are thinking of making us work for 12 hours. How many breaks am I going to be entitled to? And how many? As they are saying we are entitled to 1.5 hours a shift, which I don't think that I am? Can you help?
Shaun - 17-Mar-17 @ 1:12 PM
I work in care I do 9 am till 11 pm then sleepover till 7 am next morning and end shift at 11.30 am we have never been told we have breaks client is 2 staff 24hrs. We work in clients house and have no separate facilities from him except a sleepover room / office. If we were to have breaks cover would be needed but no one is telling us anything .please can you advise.
Jo lee - 10-Mar-17 @ 7:48 AM
I work 12 hr plus day shifts in a care home. We get 3, 10 minutes break's per day as smoking breaks and no other breaks. In that 10 mins we have to eat as we're not allowed to eat in front of residents.we are always short staffed and we're lucky if we get a break. Before I hand in my noticeIs this legal?
Frantic fran - 8-Mar-17 @ 8:17 PM
In the article it states you are entitled to only 1 20 minute break even if you work a 12 hour shift but in the questions and answers you state that it's 20 minutes for every 6 hours so a 12 hour shift attracts 2x 20 minute breaks. Which is correct??
Nick - 8-Mar-17 @ 3:58 PM
Simon - Your Question:
I work as a support worker, I am on a 31 hour shift. I started at 2pm Sunday, slept in which as I understand is under WTR and I am working till 9pm Monday night. Ji have no structured breaks as we are to take time when we can. Is it legal to work such a long shift with no designated break?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract which will specify what breaks etc you should have and whether by signing the contract, you have opted out.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 7-Mar-17 @ 12:06 PM
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