What exactly are your rights on taking a break at work?

How many breaks are you legally allowed to take at work?
How many breaks are you legally allowed to take at work?
Share this article
0
Have your say

You’ve been slogging away at your desk for hours and are desperate to get outside for some fresh air.

But how many breaks are you legally allowed to take at work?

It will come as a surprise to many to learn that employees over 18 in the UK who work for more than six hours are only legally allowed one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break.

And the rest break doesn’t have to be paid, either.

Employers, if they choose, can decide exactly when their staff take their rest break – as long as it’s taken in one go.

The Government advice states: “Workers over 18 are usually entitled to three types of break – rest breaks at work, daily rest and weekly rest.

“Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day, if they work more than six hours a day. This could be a tea or lunch break.

“The break doesn’t have to be paid – it depends on their employment contract.

“Workers also have the right to 11 hours rest between working days, e.g. if they finish work at 8pm, they shouldn’t start work again until 7am the next day.

“Workers also have the right to either an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours without any work each fortnight.”

Those who smoke – or vape – may be surprised to learn there’s no legal allowance for a smoking break.

Not that it seems to stop employees from heading outside for a “quick fag”.

Indeed, a recent survey by Vapourlites.com claims employers lose £1,815 a year for each full-time employee who take four breaks a day for up to 10 minutes each to light up.

Two-thirds of non-smoking office workers reckon it’s unfair that their colleagues who smoke take “additional” breaks throughout the day, according to the study.

More than half – 58 per cent – of those in the latest survey said those who smoke during normal working hours should be forced to “clock off” or otherwise have their smoking breaks recorded.

A further 30 per cent admitted to complaining to their bosses about how often and how long smoking breaks are taken for.

Of those surveyed, 44 per cent described smoking breaks as “disruptive”, especially when working together in teams.

So there you have it. Next time you head outside for a quick ciggie, bear in mind that not everyone will be happy.