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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 16 Aug 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]
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
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
Spider - 1-Jun-18 @ 9:47 PM
I work as a front of House waitress. I work anything from 6-8 hours but am not given or allowed a break. My boss gets annoyed if I stop to drink water. I often finish at 11:30 and am expected in again at 8am. Is any of this legal?
CW - 28-May-18 @ 8:29 PM
Ester - Your Question:
Thank you for your reply. My daughter feels that it is too difficult to discuss things with her employer. The work is arranged online and by text, so there is not really a face to a person. Zero hour contract rightly or wrongly makes working conditions difficult to question because of the worry of getting future hours.Nevertheless, as another question, this is montonous work, very repeative and requires accuracy, sometimes very long hours. Does the employer of many people working such contracts have to consider such things, on a health and safety duty aspect, rather from just giving the bare minimum in terms of breaks?

Our Response:
If the work is monotonous or the work-rate is predetermined, she may have a separate right to adequate rest breaks The WorkSmart link here should tell you more. Your daughter could also give Acas a call. However, your daughter would still have to discuss this with her employer directly in order to try to resolve this issue.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 22-May-18 @ 1:01 PM
Thank you for your reply. My daughter feels that it is too difficult to discuss things with her employer. The work is arranged online and by text, so there is not really a face to a person. Zero hour contract rightly or wrongly makes working conditions difficult to question because of the worry of getting future hours. Nevertheless, as another question, this is montonous work, very repeative and requires accuracy, sometimes very long hours. Does the employer of many people working such contracts haveto consider such things, on a health and safety duty aspect, rather from just giving the bare minimum in terms of breaks?
Ester - 21-May-18 @ 5:51 PM
Ester - Your Question:
My daughter works as a stock taker in various locations. She uses a hand held scanner to scan individual items or boxes of goods. The work is monotonous and repetative. Her hours can be very long. On an 10 hour shift or above they get a 20 minute break which I understand is legal in terms of time. But due to the nature of the work should they be entitled to furthur breaks.Breaking up the work day into different activities is not an option.

Our Response:
Unfortunately, her only option would be to talk to her employer directly regarding this. While the break time is by no means generous, her employer is keeping within the legal guidelines.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 21-May-18 @ 3:20 PM
My daughter works as a stock taker in various locations. She uses a hand held scanner to scan individual items or boxes of goods. The work is monotonous and repetative. Her hours can be very long. On an 10 hour shift or above they get a 20 minute break which I understand is legal in terms of time.But due to the nature of the work should they be entitled to furthur breaks. Breaking up the work day into different activities is not an option.
Ester - 21-May-18 @ 12:52 PM
breaks- Your Question:
Hi work in retail. I work 10.5 hrs, is 20mins 1 hr and 30mins correct for breaks?

Our Response:
This is considered generous as breaktimes go. In theory, your employer would be entitled to give you a minimum of just 20 minutes for 10.5 hours and another 20 minutes if you work over 12 hours. .
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 18-May-18 @ 11:08 AM
Hi work in retail. i work 10.5 hrs, is 20mins 1 hr and 30mins correct for breaks?
breaks - 17-May-18 @ 5:24 PM
Plug dude - Your Question:
My employer is now starting 12 hour shifts 6am till 6pm & they are giving us 1 10 minute in the mornig & a half hour break at 1 is this legal?

Our Response:
It is legal, yes. As outlined in the article, you have a right to 20 minute break for every six hours that you work.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 17-May-18 @ 12:26 PM
My employer is now starting 12 hour shifts 6amtill 6pm & they are giving us 1 10 minute in the mornig & a half hour break at 1 is this legal?
Plug dude - 16-May-18 @ 11:19 AM
I work a 12 hour night shift as a carer we are paid for 11 hours but can never have the 1 hour break as we have no staff to cover. Can I request we have that hour back? Also if I clock out 1 min early they take 15 mins pay off me. Although some days I have worked over up to 1/2 hour that is not paid can they do this what are my rights?
San - 13-May-18 @ 4:23 PM
Chard - Your Question:
I work from 12pm - 9pm what breaks am I entitled to? For the first 4 hours I am in a area that has extremely high heat

Our Response:
You are entitled to one 20-minute break somewhere in the middle of your shift.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 11-May-18 @ 2:46 PM
I am a permanent day worker completing 12hours per day five days a week where all penal rates apply my question isdoes the unpaid midday break be recognised as time worked giving 12 hours paid
PENE - 11-May-18 @ 12:34 PM
Hi we work in a playgroup that's open 9:15-3 mon-fri and 9:15-11:45 on Friday. We arrive about 8:45 (our choice) to set up and have a cup of tea before we open. We eat our lunch with the children and have a drink when the children have their snack .We get paid9-3 do we need to take a 20 min rest break or are we ok as we are.
Tootsie - 10-May-18 @ 11:15 PM
I work from 12pm - 9pm what breaks am I entitled to? For the first 4 hours I am in a area that has extremely high heat
Chard - 7-May-18 @ 9:59 PM
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