UK employers guide to work break laws – What breaks are employees entitled to?

Last checked and updated on 28 April 2022

In the UK, employers must comply with work break laws. This means that employees are entitled to breaks during their working day. The amount of time employees can work without a break and the type of break they are entitled to will vary depending on their occupation.

In this article, we will provide an overview of UK work break laws for employers. We will answer the question: “how long can employees work without a break?” and provide a list of the types of breaks employees are entitled to.

What are the working time regulations?

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) set out the entitlement to breaks from work, and these rules must be followed to ensure compliance. The Regulations apply to all workers, including full-time, part-time, agency workers and homeworkers.

Under the Working Time Regulations, adult workers are entitled to:

  • Work an average (no more than) 48 hours a week, unless they opt out
  • At least 5.6 weeks’ paid time off per year
  • 1 consecutive hour of rest per 24-hour period
  • A 20-minute rest break (for working days longer than six hours)
  • 11 hours of rest between working days. (for example, if the worker finishes work at 6pm, they wouldn’t work again until 5am the next day)
  • A minimum of one day off per week
  • For night shifts, not having to work more than eight hours in any 24-hour period
  • Restricted hours of to 8-hours per day and 40-hours per week if they are aged 16-18.

How many hours do employees work to get a break in the UK?

The amount of time an employee can work without a break depends on their occupation. For example, office workers and retail employees are entitled to a 20-minute break if they work for more than six hours in a day.

What breaks are employees entitled to?

If employees work for 6 hours, do they get a break?

Employees in the UK are entitled to a 20-minute break if they work more than six hours in a day. This break can be taken either as one 20-minute break or as two shorter breaks. The 20-minute break must be taken at some point during the working day, and it does not have to be taken all at once. For example, an employee could take two ten-minute breaks during their working day.

If you work 7 hours how long is your break?

As mentioned above, when an employee works for more than 6 hours, they are entitled to a 20-minute break. This break may be taken in one 20-minute session or two 10-minute breaks. At some point during the working day, a 20-minute break is required, and it does not have to be completely finished at once.

If you work 8 hours, how long is your break?

If an employee works more than eight hours in a day, they are also entitled to a lunch break. This break should be at least 30 minutes long and should be taken away from the workstation. Employees can choose to waive their right to a lunch break if they wish, but this must be done in writing and with the agreement of the employer.

What about a 5 hours work break?

If an employee works for five hours, they are not legally entitled to a work break. However, employers may choose to provide their employees with a break as a matter of good practice. Breaks can help to improve employee productivity and wellbeing, so it is in the employer’s best interests to provide them where possible.

Occupations where work break rules are different

There are some occupations in which employees are not entitled to the standard breaks, depending on what they agreed when signing their employment contract. For example, employees who work in security or surveillance roles may not be entitled to any breaks. If you are unsure whether your employees are entitled to breaks, you should seek legal advice.

Can employees work through their lunch break and then leave work early?

It is important to note that employees can choose to waive their right to breaks. However, this must be done in writing and with the agreement of the employer. Employees should only waive their right to breaks if they are sure that they will be able to work without a break. For example, an employee who is working on a time-sensitive project may choose to waive their right to breaks in order to meet a deadline.

Can employees sleep on their break at work?

It is important to note that employees should not usually sleep on their break at work. If an employee needs to take a nap, they should do so before or after their working day. Sleeping during working hours can be dangerous and it can also lead to accidents, though this may vary by profession and whether the employee is working a night shift.

Work breaks and mental health

It is important to remember that work breaks are not just about physical health. Breaks can also help to improve employee mental health. For example, a break can give an employee time to step away from their work and clear their head. Breaks can also provide employees with time to socialise with colleagues, which can help to reduce stress levels.

Employers should encourage their employees to take breaks during their working day, and they should make sure that employees are aware of their entitlement to breaks. Breaks can help to improve employee productivity and wellbeing, so it is in the employer’s best interests to provide them where possible.

This can help with staff retention too – for example it can help retain hotel staff.

Conclusion

In conclusion, employers in the UK must comply with work break laws. This means that employees are entitled to breaks during their working day. The amount of time employees can work without a break and the type of break they are entitled to will vary depending on their occupation. If you are unsure whether your employees are entitled to breaks, you should seek legal advice.

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Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. We recommend that you always speak to a qualified professional to get advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.