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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 12 Feb 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]
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
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
Nana - 2-Jan-18 @ 1:04 PM
Crazych1ck - Your Question:
I am a community care worker which involves a lot of strenuous moving and handling. I also drive between calls. I have recently started a new company and they have given me shifts of 9 hour shifts this doesn’t include time to get to each home I attend or from and back to home. There is no break at all in this 9 hours what should I be entitled to and how do I approach my boss about it

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see whether you are awarded a break and how the break is awarded. 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. If your employer is ignoring the break awarded to you by law, then you would have to take this up with your employer in the first instance. If your employer doesn't rectify the issue, then it is advisable to give ACAS a call in order to explore your options.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 30-Nov-17 @ 3:10 PM
I am a community care worker which involves a lot of strenuous moving and handling. I also drive between calls. I have recently started a new company and they have given me shifts of 9 hour shifts this doesn’t include time to get to each home I attend or from and back to home. There is no break at all in this 9 hours what should I be entitled to and how do I approach my boss about it
Crazych1ck - 30-Nov-17 @ 8:50 AM
We work a 12 hour shift in a naval dockyard on nights, we drive 30 minutes to work and again to get home. We must arrive early as parking is appalling. We have been told we can have a 30 minute break at 0400-0430 We start at 1900 and finish at 0745 Surly we are entitled to another break earlier on in the shift
Shakira - 24-Nov-17 @ 10:19 AM
If a working day is (for example) 9-3:10 so 6 hours and ten min but includes a ten min break is that legal? the shift is technically more than 6 hours but the actual hours worked are bang on 6 due to the break?
corinne - 23-Nov-17 @ 10:25 AM
Hi i worked a 13 and half hour shift lastnight my first onedrivingwith out any breakswhen i asked do we have a tea break the reply was no is this legal ots a new job so dont really won't to be the first one to complain
Lanny - 21-Nov-17 @ 1:42 PM
The above statement is a lie, the law states that during a 6 hour work period you are entitled to 1 20 minute uninterrupted meal break away from your work station NOT TO BE TAKEN AT THE BEGINNING OR END OF SHIFT. That means during a 12 hour shift your entitled by LAW to 2 20 minute breaks and if you drive a truck 3 20 minute uninterrupted meal breaks. Might I add that the 20 minutes starts from the moment you sit down with your meal infront of you, not including getting to and from the brew room or waiting in cue to be served.
Davehug7900 - 19-Nov-17 @ 3:21 PM
DDTelford - Your Question:
Please help! I’ve been offered a job Monday to Friday doing a 6am to 6pm shift driving a shunt wagon around a factory unit. I’ve got a class 1 (not needed as private ground) but they are only offering a 30 minute unpaid break, is this legal ? Does it come under the driving law ? Seems harsh just half hour break in 12 hours

Our Response:
It is legal. If you work over 12 hours, then you will be eligible for another break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 13-Nov-17 @ 11:34 AM
Please help! I’ve been offered a job Monday to Friday doing a 6am to 6pm shift driving a shunt wagon around a factory unit. I’ve got a class 1 (not needed as private ground) but they are only offering a 30 minute unpaid break, is this legal ? Does it come under the driving law ? Seems harsh just half hour break in 12 hours
DDTelford - 12-Nov-17 @ 7:28 PM
Jula - Your Question:
I work in McDonald's, there is 45 min unpaid break, if I work 9h shift can manager send me on break after 2 hour I start? For example I'm on 8am-5pm shift, and manager ask me at 10am to go break.Is that fine I will work 6 hour without break?

Our Response:
Theoretically, you can work for up to six hours without a break. However, according to the European Working Time Directive, and as specified in the article, your break must be given to you somewhere in the middle of your shift and not at the beginning or end of it, please see link here. Therefore, you would need to speak to your line manager directly about this and request your break somewhere during the middle of your shift.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 2-Nov-17 @ 12:31 PM
Rhi - Your Question:
Hi.I work at a restaurant which also does functions. I work 16/17 hours 7 days a week continuously, without a break. How long should my breaks be each day?

Our Response:
Your breaks should fit in with the break times as specified in this article ie, 20 minutes for every six hours that you work. It would also be advisable to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract, as this should tell you what your break-time allocation is. If you are working 16/17 hours you should be allocated 2 x 20 minute breaks. You are also entitled to an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week and an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight, please see link here . You may wish to give ACAS a call to explore your rights fully as you should not be working this length of day across seven days per week without statutory rest.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 2-Nov-17 @ 10:08 AM
Hi. I work at a restaurant which also does functions. I work 16/17 hours 7 days a week continuously, without a break. How long should my breaks be each day?
Rhi - 1-Nov-17 @ 6:55 PM
I work in McDonald's, there is 45 min unpaid break, if I work 9h shift can manager send me on break after 2 hour I start? For example I'm on 8am-5pm shift, and manager ask me at 10am to go break. Is that fine I will work 6 hour without break?
Jula - 1-Nov-17 @ 10:20 AM
Samantha Jayne Louis - Your Question:
I work 10 hours what are my legal right for a break

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. You would have to be employed for 12 hours or more to receive another 20 minute break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 31-Oct-17 @ 3:56 PM
Rosie - Your Question:
What breaks am I entitled to working 7 and half shift

Our Response:
As specified in the article, by law, you are entitled to one 20 minute break for every six hours you work. The terms of your employment contract should tell you more about the breaks you are allocated to by your employer.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 31-Oct-17 @ 1:37 PM
I work 10 hours what are my legal right for a break
Samantha Jayne Louis - 31-Oct-17 @ 8:53 AM
What breaks am I entitled to working 7 and half shift
Rosie - 29-Oct-17 @ 10:11 PM
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