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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Oct 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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KR - Your Question:
My wife work as a community career. and lately she is working 12 hrs with no break. in that 12 hrs she will drive to multiple clients and be with them for anything from 1 hrs to 3 hrs. and then drives to the next.So other than driving from client to client my wife does not get a break when she has these 12 hrs shifts.? is this legal

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms of your employment contract to see what it specifies regarding breaktimes (which you will be entitled to), as this will hold the answers to what you are due. If your employer is not factoring in your break time when it is specified in your contract, then you would have to speak to your employer directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 3-Oct-17 @ 11:13 AM
My wife work as a community career. and lately she is working 12 hrs with no break. in that 12 hrs she will drive to multiple clients and be with them for anything from 1 hrs to 3 hrs. and then drives to the next. So other than driving from client to client my wife does not get a break when she has these 12 hrs shifts. ? is this legal
KR - 2-Oct-17 @ 3:13 PM
Mike - Your Question:
I worked 11 hours straight Sunday and today I'm working 8 hours straight. Both with no breaks, is that legal?

Our Response:
Have a read of the terms and conditions of your employment contract to see what it says regarding your breaks. If your contract differs to what your employer is giving you, then you would need to speak with your employer directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-Sep-17 @ 10:40 AM
I worked 11 hours straight Sunday and today I'm working 8 hours straight. Both with no breaks, is that legal?
Mike - 25-Sep-17 @ 10:09 AM
MR T - Your Question:
What are my break entilments I work 8 hr day paid for 7 thank you

Our Response:
If you are on an eight hour days and work seven, if one hour is unpaid then this would be classed as an hour break. You should have a look at the terms and conditions of your contract.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 14-Sep-17 @ 2:44 PM
what are my break entilments i work 8 hr day paid for 7 thank you
MR T - 14-Sep-17 @ 9:27 AM
Vanessa- Your Question:
I work part time and my hours used to be 8-2 weekdays. I have been forced to increase to 7:30-2:30 but told I don't get a break as the full shirt finishes at3 and therefore that counts as my break-is this legal?

Our Response:
If you work over six hours, you are allocated a break. If you work exactly six hours your employer does not have to factor in a break. If your previous 8-2 contract offered you a break, then the contract should still stand even through you have changed the times you work. Therefore, you may wish to check the terms of your contract to see what it says. If you are working from 7.30 and finish at 3pm, then you are by law allowed a twenty minute break, as you have worked over six hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 11-Sep-17 @ 3:29 PM
I work part time and my hours used to be 8-2 weekdays. I have been forced to increase to 7:30-2:30 but told I don't get a break as the full shirt finishes at3 and therefore that counts as my break-is this legal?
Vanessa - 9-Sep-17 @ 2:26 PM
Judi - Your Question:
Hi. I am care assistant working with people in their own houses. I am working 9h night shift without break. Is it legal? Thank you

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions of your employment contract to find this out. By signing the contract, if you have agreed to not having a break by way of being allowed to sleep through a period of the night then this could constitute a break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 1-Sep-17 @ 10:41 AM
Hi. I am care assistant working with people in their own houses. I am working 9h night shift without break. Is it legal? Thank you
Judi - 31-Aug-17 @ 5:48 AM
I work as a HGV driver my shift starts on a Sunday and ends on a Thursday on Sunday I do roughly a 12 hour shift starting at 7 p.m. I finish my shift around 6:30 a.m. on monday morning and and get home about 7 a.m., i have to start work 4 p.m. on Monday my concern is I am not getting my 9 hour rest period, I have spoken to my manager about it and he does not seem to be concerned can you please tell me if the company is right to do this. Thanks fred
Freddie - 17-Aug-17 @ 1:21 PM
I am having to work 10 hours with a 20 min break .my supervisoris the only other worker on that shift.she said that if we get busy during my break I will need to go back to work and leave my break and have 10 mins more later. So my break will be split into 10 minutes depending on if she needs to cut short my break to return to work. I won't be resting properly.not only that it's disgraceful to be working long hours with only a 20 minute break for anyone in this day and age.so ce shift work and part time work is now far more prevent in the working pattern it is making workers more tired and worn out. We should be entitled to 1 hour break for lunch .and 10 minutes coffee break like it used to be. Instead of reducing staff in each shift to keep it favourable to employers. This country is a work house mayhem
Caroline - 16-Aug-17 @ 1:08 AM
I have worked for my employer for 17 years, 8 full time, the last 9 partime, having returned from maternity leave. My contracted hours are Friday 9-3 and Saturday 9-4. My employer has always deducted 30 mins from my salary for each Saturday as I work over 6 hours. I have also worked regular voluntary overtime for 4 years on average 6 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week during school term time (as I have 2 children aged 8 and 10 years and cannot work extra hours during school holidays) for which I don't get holiday. However I did claim and was reluctantly paid allocated holiday pay backdated 2 years by my employer when I referred to recent tribunal findings earlier this year. Since this, my employers HR department said the company would have to look at company needs as I have worked such excessive hours and this could not continue. However, it has, so I in May asked my employer to confirm my accrued holiday entitlement to date for 2017 so it can be allocated and taken rather than me claiming for unpaid holiday again or my losing it. This resulted in my being summoned to a hasty meeting with my Regional manager who basically told me I either had to stop working voluntary overtime or, I could continue if I forego any further claims for additional holiday. Since this my employer has now reduced my holiday entitlement which is based on my contracted hours. Upon asking why my holiday entitlement is less than last year and previous years, I was told that they were now deducting the 30 minutes statutory break for working over 6 hours on a Saturday from my holiday entitlement. A practice not previously taken. I wrote to HR and said this has not happened previously and I know for a fact that full time and other part time staff do not have statutory breaks deducted from holiday entitlement, otherwise no one would ever receive their maximum holiday, but they said as my contract is for hours ( which it has been for 9 years) and not days, they were now deducting my statutory break. Instead of getting 92.4 hours holiday I am being given 84 hours pa. I feel I am being treated unfairly since making a claim internally for voluntary overtime holiday. Can I please ask for any advice firstly relating to this reduction of holiday entitlement and what I feel is a threat to drop any future claim for additional holiday for continued voluntary overtime otherwise I won't be allowed to work any overtime. The voluntary overtime I've worked now for 4 years, more than twice exceeds my contracted hours and salary, has been continuous, ie with a break of no more than a 3 month period (basically school term time) which I feel has now become an implied term in my contract. My employers refute this and said I had to either change my contract to increase my hours, which I can't due to child care. I tried to reason that if they were willing to increase my contract and I agreed, which I can't and to be honest don't want to, then my holiday entitlement would have to incr
Carrie - 11-Aug-17 @ 7:31 AM
Hazel - Your Question:
I work in a restaurant 6pm-11pm am I entitled to a 10minute break during shift?

Our Response:
By law, your employer does not have to give you a break until you have worked over six hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 10-Aug-17 @ 3:54 PM
I work in a restaurant 6pm-11pm am I entitled to a 10minute break during shift?
Hazel - 10-Aug-17 @ 2:31 PM
Be - Your Question:
I work 14 hours shift once a weak do I get a second break or no.

Our Response:
Yes, in line with the European Working Time Directive you areentitled to two x 20 minute breaks if you work more than 12 hours.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 31-Jul-17 @ 1:38 PM
I work 14 hours shift once a weak do I get a second break or no.
Be - 30-Jul-17 @ 5:34 AM
Michaella - Your Question:
Hi. I'm working at DHL. Daily I'm working 8hours normally and I can take only 30min break. But, if I do 10 hours overtime I've got still only 30min break. Is it legal, please? Thanks for answer! :)

Our Response:
Yes. Only if you work more than 12 hours would you be entitled to a second break.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 28-Jul-17 @ 4:08 PM
Hi. I'm working at DHL. Daily I'm working 8hours normally and I can take only 30min break. But, if I do 10 hours overtime I've got still only 30min break. Is it legal, please? Thanks for answer! :)
Michaella - 28-Jul-17 @ 6:39 AM
AJ - Your Question:
Im a carer. I do two shifts some days 6.45am-2pm and 4-10.30pm. What breaks am I entitled to? And also can the gap between the two shifts be less than the two hours?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, you are entitled to one 20 minute break for every six hours or more you work.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 20-Jul-17 @ 2:48 PM
Im a carer. I do two shifts some days 6.45am-2pm and 4-10.30pm. What breaks am I entitled to? And also can the gap between the two shifts be less than the two hours?
AJ - 20-Jul-17 @ 7:47 AM
I work in the watersports industry and often work 12 hour shifts with around 15 minutes of beeak time
Luke Blake - 7-Jul-17 @ 7:55 PM
Abby123456 - Your Question:
I'm starting a job in a packaging factory with an agency, I will be doing 8 hours a day does this mean I only get a 30 minute break? I am 18 and was just wondering. Thanks !

Our Response:
Much depends upon what your employer wishes to give you. If you are working eight hours some employers wish to give an hour lunchbreak paid or unpaid. However, this depends upon the employer and is up to your employer's discretion. All should become clear when you read your employee's handbook.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 26-Jun-17 @ 12:07 PM
I'm starting a job in a packaging factory with an agency, I will be doing 8 hours a day does this mean I only get a 30 minute break? I am 18 and was just wondering. Thanks !
Abby123456 - 23-Jun-17 @ 6:34 PM
Tlchilvers - Your Question:
I work on a pc everyday however I sometimes am not given a break until after 3 hours of continuous work. Is this legal as I am working on a pc?

Our Response:
The same law applies if you are working on a PC as working in general, in that you are entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes if you are employed for more than six hours a day.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 4:18 PM
Julz - Your Question:
My 16 year old son has recently started his first job in busy shop and works 5 - 7 hour shifts. He's told by his employer that he's not entitled to a break unless he does 8 hour shifts, is this legal?

Our Response:
As a young worker, your son is legally entitled to a 30 minute rest break if he works more than 4.5 hours, please see link here.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 4:14 PM
I work on a pc everyday however I sometimes am not given a break until after 3 hours of continuous work. Is this legal as I am working on a pc?
Tlchilvers - 19-Jun-17 @ 3:51 PM
My 16 year old son has recently started his first job in busy shop and works 5 - 7 hour shifts. He's told by his employer that he's not entitled to a break unless he does 8 hour shifts, is this legal?
Julz - 19-Jun-17 @ 3:20 PM
Gaz - Your Question:
I work 11 1/2 hours and im being told I cant leave my work station to take my break because I get paid is this legal?

Our Response:
As a rule workers are allowed to spend their work break away from their desk or workstation regardless of whether they are being paid, unless specified otherwise in their employment contract. Therefore, you would have to read the terms and conditions of your contract to see what it specifies. If the reasons why cannot be justified or if you feel you are being treated unfairly speak to your line manager directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 19-Jun-17 @ 10:27 AM
I work 11 1/2 hours and im being told i cant leave my work station to take my break because i get paid is this legal?
Gaz - 16-Jun-17 @ 10:03 AM
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