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Rest Breaks

Following the Working Time Regulations 1998 workers (including contractors & agency workers as well as employees) are entitled to daily and weekly rest periods totalling 90 hours per week, together with rest breaks during each working day. The regulations and relevant case law indicate that a “rest period” is a period which is NOT working time, other than statutory annual leave or a rest break. This means that travel time TO a normal place of work from the worker’s home will be classed as a rest period – NOT as working time.

There have been a number of cases about “on-call” periods, and “downtime”. Time spent “on-call” at the employer’s premises is working time; even if the worker can actually take rest, or even sleep. Between times when his/her work is actually required. This poses complications for a number of businesses, such as care and residential homes. Furthermore if work in any shift or day in a particular job comes in bursts, with significant gaps between them when work may be required, (such as loading & unloading aircraft) the gaps between such bursts of activity will still be classed as WORKING TIME.

Rest Breaks during each Working Day

After a working period of 6 hours, an adult worker is entitled to take a rest break. The break is to be at least 20 minutes uninterrupted in duration. Generally speaking the rest break should not be taken at either the beginning or end of the shift, as that is likely to be regarded as a shortened shift rather than a shift with a break. In addition the case law shows that the right to a 20 minutes break is not increased proportionately with a longer, if the worker has an 9 hours shift the regulations still only provide for a 20 minutes break NOT a 30 minutes rest break. Naturally, if the worker's contract provides for a longer break, then the worker will be entitled to the longer contractual rest  break.
  For young workers (those under 18yrs) the entitlement is to at least 30 minutes uninterrupted in duration if their daily working time exceeds 4.5 hours.

Daily Rest Periods

Adult workers are entitled to a rest break of at least 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour working period. However, this does not apply to some shift workers; for whom “compensatory rest” must be given.

Weekly Rest Period

Adult workers are usually entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 24 hours in each 7 day working period. However, this is NOT to run concurrently with any part of the Daily Rest period (see above) except if justified by objective or technical reasons.

For young workers the minimum weekly rest period is 48 hours. Although this may be reduced because of technical or organisational reasons it must not be reduced to less than 36 consecutive hours.


There are some “special case” exceptions to the rest entitlements, on which specific advice should be sought.


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