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Rest breaks

Many employees may be completely unaware of the rules relating to rest breaks at work, what they are entitled to, how long the breaks should last, issues such as this. It is always worth knowing what your rights are.

There are issues which determine the breaks you are allowed to take and your age, the number of hours you work per day and the type of work involved all determine the breaks you are entitled to under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

  1. Rest breaks at work

These types of breaks see workers over the age of 18 entitled to one 20 minute rest break during their working day as long as they work more than six hours per day. This time could be part of a lunch break.

  1. Daily rest

Workers have a right to at least 11 hours rest between working days. So if a worker finishes at nine pm, they should not be back at work until 8am the following morning.

  1. Weekly rest

Workers must have at least one day off per week and two days off a fortnight, that day should be a 24-hour period completely uninterrupted by work.

However, apart from these three types of breaks which apply to all employees over the age of 18, there are other stipulations.

  • For those workers whose employment involves heavy machinery, such as working on a production line, or much of the working day or night on the road, such as a long distance lorry driver, their employer should be flexible enough to provide suitable rest times to ensure they are not a risk to themselves or their colleagues. Also, of course, in the case of drivers, that they are not also a risk to other road users.
  • Those under the age of 18 are usually entitled to a rest time of 30 minutes assuming they work more than 4.5 hours, daily rest of 12 hours and weekly rest of 48 hours.
  • As for when the breaks can be taken, this largely depends on the employer concerned. The only limits on them are that the breaks should be in the middle of the day rather than at the beginning or the end and that the employee should be able to leave their desk during this period or away from the area where they actually work if they wish to do so. If the employer issues conditions contrary to this or wants the worker back at their desk before the rest period is over, then that would not count as a rest break.



There are exceptions to the rules, those workers for whom the three break stipulations does not count. These are:


  • Members of the armed forces or the emergency services who are dealing with an unprecedented situation.
  • People working in sea transport
  • Those employed in road or air transport
  • Those working in a job where they are able to set their own hours of work, such as a factory owner, or those where the work cannot actually be measured and there are no set hours.