Employment & HR - colourful people chain image

Have a break…

This month we answer some frequently asked questions regarding breaks at work.

Who is entitled to rest breaks?

Most workers will be entitled to take breaks during the course of their working day. Rest breaks include lunch breaks, tea breaks and other short breaks taken during the working day.

If a worker is under 18 but over ‘school leaving age’ they will be classified as a ‘young worker’ and will have a different break allowance to adult workers. A worker is under ‘school leaving age’ until the end of the summer term of the school year in which they turn 16.

If a worker is over 18, they are classified as an adult worker.

What does the law say?

Employers must give their workers at least the rest breaks required by the Working Time Regulations. This is to ensure the worker’s health and safety is not at risk. Depending on the type of work the worker undertakes, the employer may decide to give more than the legal minimum if this reduces a health and safety risk.

The current minimum legal entitlements for rest breaks whilst at work are:

  • Adult workers have the right to a 20 minute rest break if they are expected to work more than six hours at a stretch
  • Young workers who need to work for more than four and a half hours will get a rest break of 30 minutes

The contract of employment should detail the rest breaks that an employee is entitled to take.

Are rest breaks paid?

Whether rest breaks are paid or unpaid depends on what is included in the contract of employment. There is no legal requirement for rest breaks to be paid.

What about smoking breaks?

There is no legal right to smoking breaks.

When can rest breaks be taken?

Rest breaks must be taken in one block (i.e. half an hour or an hour, not five minutes here and 10 minutes there.) They cannot be taken off one end of the working day – it must be somewhere in the middle.

Employers can stipulate when rest breaks must be taken, providing they comply with the conditions above.

Do rest breaks have to be taken?

It is strongly recommended that rest breaks are taken. They are there to protect workers and workers are entitled to them.