In this article we run through the basic employment law on break entitlement and rest periods for companies in the UK.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 states that: “Where an adult worker’s daily working time is more than six hours, he is entitled to a rest break of no less than 20 uninterrupted minutes.
“Where a young worker’s daily working time is more than four and a half hours he is entitled to a rest break of at least 30 minutes, which shall be consecutive if possible.”
A young worker is a worker who is at least 15 but not yet 18 years old and adult workers are 18 or over. There are other rules relating to the interrupting of breaks; it is to be spent away from the workstation; compensatory rest if a rest break is interrupted or disallowed; if the health and safety of a worker is put at risk, particularly for monotonous or pre-determined work, then the employer should ensure that the worker is given adequate rest breaks. For most workers the first two rules will apply.
Nothing in the regulations states that the breaks should be paid if monotonous or predetermined work rates apply, although they can be paid if the employer wishes. Risk assessments should also be carried out, and if you are still unsure professional advice taken.
Small businesses need to be aware of the guidelines governing their employees’ break entitlement, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
A spokesperson for the government body advises that if they don’t, they risk contravening the working time directive .
The HSE says that there are a number of differences governing breaks for workers in different industries. For example, workers using display screen equipment or doing strenuous or repetitive work are entitled to longer and more frequent breaks.
‘The rules on the provision of breaks under the working time directive…differ depending on the age of the worker,’ she adds.
According to HSE figures, 2.2 million Britons suffer from an illness or a condition they believe to have been caused or aggravated by their job. The Labour Force Survey says that over the same period, 274,000 reportable injuries occurred.
Click here for further advice on breaks for staff from the HSE.
Related: How to manage smoke breaks at work