An 8-hour working day is the most common shift length for those working a full-time 40-hour week in the UK. And for those who work this shift pattern, there is an entitlement to several breaks from work so they can rest and eat.
But what exactly is the break entitlement for 8-hour shifts and what does the law say about rest periods during the working day? We will look to answer these questions and more in this guide.
What is a rest period during the working day?
A rest period is a specific amount of time for an employee to take away from their workstation to relax, eat, and refresh themselves.
What does the law state about break entitlement for 8-hour shifts?
For adult workers, the law on break entitlements for 8-hour shifts is laid out in the Working Time Directive. This set of regulations also governs rest periods, and the number of hours employees can be asked to work.
Break laws for young workers are different and they are generally entitled to longer breaks.
So, what is the break entitlement for 8-hour shifts?
You may receive this as one continuous break or it can be divided into shorter breaks taken throughout the day.
The break must be given to you during your shift, not at the beginning or end, although there are no clear rules about how long you need to work before taking your break.
Many businesses offer more breaks than the statutory minimum, but this is solely at the discretion of the employer. For details of the breaks you are entitled to at your place of work, check your employment contract or staff handbook.
Are statutory breaks paid?
Not necessarily. There is no obligation for your employer to pay you for your break period, but they may pay some or all of it if they wish to.
Your break also doesn’t count towards the length of your working day. So, if you do have a 20 minute or longer break during your 8-hour shift, you may be required to stay at work for 8 hours and 20 minutes to ensure you are working the full 8 hours. Again, check your contract or staff handbook to make sure you are getting the correct entitlements.
What if I work more or less than 8 hours?
It doesn’t matter how many hours you work; the statutory entitlement is always the same.
Those who work less than 6 hours have no statutory entitlement to a rest period during their working hours. Many employers will offer a break, but this is solely at their discretion.
If you work longer than 6 hours, then your statutory entitlement is still 20 minutes. The length of a shift does not change this.
Most employers will recognise that well rested workers are more productive but breaks of longer than 20 minutes will be at their discretion.
When a shift is exactly 6 hours long, there is no right to a break. When a shift is longer than that, even by a few minutes the statutory break entitlement kicks in.
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How many hours must I work in my 8-hour shift before I am dues a break?
As mentioned previously, the UK law doesn’t state how many hours you need to work before a break is due.
The law only states that if you are working an 8 hour shift you are entitled to a 20-minute rest break. It must be uninterrupted and shouldn’t be taken at the beginning or end of your shift.
What’s the longest I can work without a break?
The longest you can work without being entitled to a break is 6 hours. This threshold is set at more than 6 hours, meaning if you work a 6-hour shift, you are not entitled to a break. If you work even a minute longer than this, then you would be entitled to a 20-minute break.
Many employers will offer a break to staff who work less than 6 hours to prevent employee fatigue, but this is purely at their discretion.
Is the law different if an employee is under 18 years of age?
For young workers, under the age of 18, the rules are different, with many young workers entitled to longer breaks.
In addition to this, under 18s are entitled to a 12-hour uninterrupted rest period between each shift as well as two days off each week.
What if I am not getting my statutory minimum break entitlements?
If you aren’t being offered a 20-minute break and you are working a shift of more than 6 hours, you should raise the issue with your employer. They are legally obliged to ensure that all employees receive their statutory entitlement.
Should this prove to be unproductive, you can contact Citizens Advice, ACAS, or even a solicitor for help and advice. You may have the right to take them to an employment tribunal if they treat you unfairly.
What if I can’t take my breaks?
If you are unable to take a break during your shift, or don’t get a proper rest period for any reason, you should get “compensatory rest” from your employer. This is where you get a break at another time of equal length to the break you have missed.
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Employee fatigue can be a real issue for both employers and employees. Making sure staff take their statutory breaks can help prevent this.
We hope you have enjoyed this article. For more informative workplace guides, check out the rest of our website.