Breaking the bank: The real cost of staff breaks at work

Across the year, staff breaks ranging from toilet trips to cigarette breaks could be costing your company, a new study reveals.

If you’re an employer, you’ll keep a close eye on your finances — but just how much are staff breaks costing you? Paper cup and disposable catering company, Inn Supplies, suggests that it could be costing more than you think.

The new research breaks down exactly how much little staff breaks can add up to cost your business.

The regulations

If your employees work for longer than six hours in a day, they are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes. In addition, workers who smoke are entitled to cigarette breaks.

Young workers over 16 and under 18, are entitled to a 30-minute rest break if they work longer than 4.5 hours.

As an employer, you only have to offer paid rest breaks if it is stipulated within your employees’ contracts.

The reality

A typical working day usually includes more staff breaks than those outlined by the government. For example, tea and toilet breaks will all take your staff away from their responsibilities — but just how much does it cost you?

Tea breaks

At work, we spend approximately 24 minutes each day brewing up—that’s 188 days and 21 hours over the course of an individual’s working life. In terms of lost time, this equates to around £400 per employee per year, assuming an average wage of £26,000. However, those on higher wages will cost your business more every time they make a cuppa.

This only considers lost time though — many employers also foot the bill for the tea, coffee, milk and sugar, costing them even more over the course of the year. Of course, this cost varies by a number of factors, including location and company size.

Research by Epiphany finds a  21p difference between making a brew in London (the most expensive at 69p) and brewing up in Hull (the cheapest at 48p).

Almost 50 per cent of workers drink four or more cups a day, while 33 per cent drink between one and three and just 20 per cent don’t drink any. Using the above costs and percentages, a business in Hull with 50 employees can expect to fork out £64.32 a day on tea and coffee supplies. In London, this figure is even higher at £92.46 per day.

Smoking breaks

According to research for the British Heart Foundation, each full-time member of staff who smokes at work cost their employer £1,815 a year.

Considering one in five British workers smoke, a 50-strong business could have around 10 smokers — costing £18,150 in lost time annually.

Smokers also take more sick leave than non-smokers. Although it works out at just 70 per cent of an extra day’s sick leave each year, it adds roughly another £50 per smoker per year.

Toilet breaks

Going to the loo is natural. Most people will visit the toilet between six and seven times a day. If we assume that three of these visits occur at work, each lasting four minutes each, an employee with an annual salary of £26,500 will cost you 92p per toilet trip. Over the course of the year, this works out at £662.50 — for just one employee!

Of course, this figure doesn’t consider the cost of toilet roll, soap and other bathroom essentials and maintenance. Add in these items and the cost rockets even further.

Further reading on employee shift entitlement

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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