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How Many Breaks am I Entitled to?

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 14 Jun 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]
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
Kmoh - Your Question:
My son is in his first year apprenticeship in a hotel. He turned 18 last week. Can they now ask him to work a 12 hour shift? And can they insist on him working until close time after late night functions?

Our Response:
You would have to read the terms and conditions in his employment contract to find out this information.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 6-Apr-18 @ 2:04 PM
My son is in his first year apprenticeship in a hotel.He turned 18 last week.Can they now ask him to work a 12 hour shift? And can they insist on him working until close time after late night functions?
Kmoh - 31-Mar-18 @ 3:33 PM
I work i am paid for 10 hour 9pm-7pmand paid for the full 10 hours for a waking night, respite care, during this time I have no break and i am unable to leave the room were I am based, only to go to the toilet! When i asked why t no break i was informed that I was to get paid for my travel time, this can be up to 1 hour way meaning i leave home at 8pm and 8pm. should we be able to have a break or a compensatory rest break at another time?
tired! - 27-Mar-18 @ 10:40 PM
Im working on a 12h shift and my employer is saying that my break should be at mid point and 1h30m to each sides so doing some math around 4h30mito 7h30max work time is he rigth???
Filipe - 26-Mar-18 @ 10:09 AM
Carer hours are 7am til 6.15pm the 7.30pm til 11pm is one hour the right entitlement
Sjde - 17-Mar-18 @ 8:12 AM
I work as a carer I do 12 hour nights but only get paid 11 hours and should get a hour break but we don't get a break not enough staff are they allowed to take that hour pay off us
Dawn - 16-Mar-18 @ 9:42 AM
@Sjde - If you are contracted for 16 hours, then you would be allowed a break for every six hours or more you work. So, you would be entitled to a minimum 2 x 20 minute breaks spaced throughout the day. It's a long day for you!
Cece - 13-Mar-18 @ 11:13 AM
I work 7am till 11pm what are my break entitlements
Sjde - 12-Mar-18 @ 3:24 PM
@lucky - I think your employer can opt out of giving a break to a retail worker (if say there is quiet times in the shop when you can take your break to eat your lunch etc). You'd have to read your contract that says what type of break you can have. I worked in retail and we used to take our breaks in quiet periods when no customers were in. If you work in a constantly busy shop then it wouldn't be right. I'd give Acas a call.
JulesN - 8-Mar-18 @ 11:52 AM
I work as an LGV instructor where tachographs are not required. Do I come under the the driver regulations or normal working time regulations?
smudge - 7-Mar-18 @ 8:59 PM
I work over 8hr days, 5 days a week, I got offered a contract 1 year 4 mths after start date (first thing in writing), when I started my job I was advised no breaks as shops can't be left unattended at any point except 2 min toilet break if I need to go but must come straight back. There is nothing in my contract regarding breaks or health and safety. I work in shops on my own, is this correct?
Lucky - 7-Mar-18 @ 10:45 AM
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