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The Importance of Adequate Breaks Throughout a Working Day

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 29 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Importance Of Adequate Work Breaks

By law, we are all entitled to adequate breaks throughout our working day. These will differ both in frequency and the ‘types’ of breaks we get according to the kind of work we’re doing and the number of continual hours we’re doing it for, although the minimum length per shift must be adhered to by law.

The fact is that rest breaks from work are not just important to those who are carrying out the jobs but they are equally important to the employers themselves as both productivity and health and safety issues could both be compromised if workers did not receive the benefit of at least the minimum break periods required under the law.

In fact, it’s often for these reasons why many companies will give you longer breaks than they’re actually required to do and will often try to structure these in a way which is more specific to the type of role a worker is performing. Here is a look at some of the ways breaks might be structured and the reasons why they’re important.

Scheduling a Break

Where it’s possible to do so, employers should allocate appropriate breaks based upon consideration of the factors below. These include:

  • Age and gender
  • Nature of the job
  • Environment in which the job is performed
  • Level of physical activity involved
  • Degree of repetition or monotony of a particular job
  • Experience of the worker in that particular role

Different Types of Breaks

Most workplace studies have reached the conclusion that workers are more productive if they have several shorter breaks a day as opposed to one much longer one. For most jobs which are full time based, two shorter breaks either side of longer ‘lunch’ type break is often adequate although employers may also need to take into account other considerations.

For example, where a job requires lots of physical exertion, several much shorter breaks will often help to keep fatigue at bay and keep production levels up. Those who work in extreme environments which are either very hot or very cold should also be given the opportunity to spend their break times outside of these extreme temperatures where possible to avoid the effects of either excessive heat or cold.

People who work in highly monotonous or repetitive jobs alongside those whose work involves constant monitoring or inspection should be offered more frequent shorter breaks in order to prevent boredom which can sometimes result in human error or a reduction in proficiency.

People who work behind a computer or data entry system all day also need to be able to get away from their screens every hour or so and to be able to get up and move about a bit in order that they’re simply not in a seated posture all day staring at a screen.

The rationale behind this type of thinking is not to allow specific groups to have more time off than other members of the workforce doing different jobs but simply to perhaps restructure breaks and rest times accordingly so that each type of worker can reap the most benefit from their rest breaks.

Another example might be where, say, a person who works behind a computer screen all day comes away from it every hour and does some filing or is given a different task to do for 10 minutes or so just so that they’re not staring at the computer screen all day.

Therefore, whilst it’s not always possible, where an employer is able to tailor breaks and structure them in a way which suits a particular type of job, the benefits will be clear for both the worker and the company alike.

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[Add a Comment]
Jen - Your Question:
I work a lot of overtime am I entitled to any extra breaks once I have finished my original shift even if its only 5mins it would help to break up the shift.

Our Response:
Much depends upon how long your total working day is after your shift ends. 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. Any other negotiation woulod have to be done with your employer directly. If you need a five or ten minute break between shifts, then you request that you take some extra time unpaid.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 30-Nov-17 @ 12:11 PM
I work a lot of overtime am I entitled to any extra breaks once i have finished my original shift even if its only 5mins it would help to break up the shift.
Jen - 29-Nov-17 @ 7:25 PM
My son is a chef in a hotel he is frequently left working alone hrs after every member of staff including manager and live in manager leaves site . So only residents in rooms . Not stated in contact anything to cover this . Is this exceptable?
nikki - 24-Oct-17 @ 3:55 PM
My employer wants me to become a lone worker in busy school kitchen where I wouldn't see anyone till lunch service. Is this safe.
Rafiki2081 - 29-Sep-17 @ 7:02 AM
GLUBGLUB- Your Question:
Is it true that we can now longer have a stool or seat in a commercial kitchen, we have to stand and do all paperwork?

Our Response:
This is a question obviously aimed at your employer only. If your employer has brought this rule into your workplace, then you would need to discuss it with him/her or your line manager directly.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 27-Jun-17 @ 10:37 AM
Is it true that we can now longer have a stool or seat in a commercial kitchen, we have to stand and do all paperwork?
GLUBGLUB - 26-Jun-17 @ 11:47 AM
please give me 5 importance of workers day
chimmy - 1-May-17 @ 7:42 PM
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I have looked at all those sites, I was just hoping there might be somewhere official that your list of factors came from so that I could quote them, but not to worry! Great website, many thanks.
Crumb - 31-Jan-16 @ 4:08 PM
Crumb - Your Question:
In the article above you mention factors employers should take into account when scheduling breaks. We are currently putting together a counter-proposal to our employer's plans to change our breaks - could you tell me where I can find the original source of this information please (I have looked through the Working Time Directive but I may have missed it)?Many thanks

Our Response:
You could try the HSE link here which gives official guidance, gov.uk here and ACAS here, all of which give the official line.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 28-Jan-16 @ 2:31 PM
In the article above you mention factors employers should take into account when scheduling breaks. We are currently putting together a counter-proposal to our employer's plans to change our breaks - could you tell me where I can find the original source of this information please (I have looked through the Working Time Directive but I may have missed it)? Many thanks
Crumb - 28-Jan-16 @ 2:05 AM
I know this is not the normal teaching schedule, but I will get about 20 minutes for lunch and 4 minutes to try to share a bathroom between 82 minute classes. We start at 7:30 and end at 3:30 plus work at home.
Sheteck - 5-Oct-15 @ 10:06 PM
I work in front of a computer all day for 8 hours, and only get one 5 minute break in the morning and one 5 minute break in the afternoon (and thats only because i smoke otherwise you dont get the 5 minute break) including and 30 minute lunch break. Is this enough break time? The employer also says that if you take the 5 minute breaks then they have to come off your lunch break or it has to be made up at the end of your shift. Is this right??
kimmi - 9-Jul-15 @ 9:22 PM
@Kellyblue - sorry we can't give advice on U.S. law as we are a UK-based website, with knowledge of only UK-based law.
WorkplaceSafetyAdvice - 17-Feb-15 @ 10:58 AM
Can an employer make employees stay inside the building during the 10 minute break?Before this new rule was made employees were allowed to go outside during break time so long as they stayed on the property. This is happening in the state of California.
Kellyblue - 14-Feb-15 @ 5:45 PM
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