Rest Breaks at Work

During your workday, you would typically be entitled to rest breaks, as well as regular and weekly rest breaks. Many employees have the right to rest breaks, but some occupations mean that you do not have an inherent legal right to breaks. 

For your rest breaks, you will not be paid – your work contract will state if you are. 

Compensatory pauses for rest

A compensatory rest break implies that at a later time you will take the break. It should be taken within a fair amount of time after you missed the break and should last as long as it would have lasted for a particular rest break. 

You may be entitled to breaks for compensatory rest if: 

You’re a shift worker working in a position where you always have to be shielded, like a hospital where you’re a security guard. 

Learn more on who at GOV.UK is entitled to compensatory rest breaks. 

Rest breaks if you’re more than 18 years old

If you are 18 years of age or older and work for more than 6 hours a day, you have the right to: 

An uninterrupted break time of at least 20 minutes, taken during the day rather than at the start or end of the day (eg tea or lunch break) 

Eleven hours of rest between. working day in a row 

1 day of rest in. working week – this will be for 2 weeks on average, so you would be entitled to 2 days off in a fortnight 

Your contract could state you’re entitled to more than that, so you might get an hour for a lunch break, for instance. 

If you are above school leaving age, but below 18

You can’t usually work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week if you’re above school leaving age but below 18. Usually, you are entitled: 

If you work for more than 4 hours and 30 minutes in a day, 12 hours rest between each working day, a 30-minute rest break 

2 days of rest every week, 

If you’re past school leaving age but under 18, there are limitations to the hours you can work at night. 

Typically, you can’t work in between: 

10pm and 6am – If your contract states that you have to work after 10pm, you have to stop by 11pm and not start again before midnight at 7am – 4am 

For example, for people who work in hospitals, agriculture, retail work, hotels, catering, bakeries, post/newspaper deliveries, or people who work in cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities, there are some exceptions. 

Legally, the boss needs to let you take any remaining breaks to which you are entitled. Talk to them if they don’t, to see if you can fix the problem. 

If this doesn’t work, a formal grievance should be raised. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your HR guy. You can also get your union representative’s advice – if you have one. 

You could make a petition before an employment tribunal if you do need to take matters further. Without going through early conciliation with Acas first, you can’t do this. For going to conciliation, there’s a 3-month time limit. This starts from the date that you didn’t grant rest breaks for your boss. 

For professional support, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

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