Taking breaks during the working day

2015-06-24 Philip posted:

A recent survey has found that many employees are not taking breaks during their working day.

The Working Time Regulations says workers have the right to take an uninterrupted 20-minute rest break, away from the workstation, if their day's working time is more than six hours. Workers can be required to remain in or about their workplace (but not at their workstation) while taking a rest break, provided that they are not still having to perform any duties. The break need not be paid.

In many cases, the obligation to provide a rest break is already satisfied by the provision of meal breaks. There is no restriction as to when the break must be taken but it should ideally be taken near the middle of the working day. Many workers feel unable to take an appropriate break during the day – often working through their lunch break.

Special rules apply where a worker is working on a production line or carrying out monotonous duties.

Occasionally, a worker will want to work through their break to either start work later or finish earlier. If an employer permits this, they will be in breach of the law.

What did the survey find? Not surprisingly as it was commissioned by Tetley, that missing tea breaks could potentially harm productivity:

44% of workers said they felt re-energised after a tea break and that 33% felt more productive. The average office worker will have four cups of tea a day, with workers in HR taking the most tea breaks a day – at least two. But nearly half of those asked said they were too busy to stop for a cup of tea, while one in four thought they were not allowed a break. One in five said they take fewer tea breaks than five years ago. Only two out of five bosses have never made a round of hot drinks for their team, with men more likely to make themselves a brew on the sly.

The Working Time Regulations can be complicated and covers not only breaks whilst at work but shift work and rest periods between shifts. To find out what your rights and responsibilities are, contact us.

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