How Long Should Employee Rest Breaks Be

Date Added 09.02.18

As I’m sure you are aware, employees and workers are entitled to a 20 minute break for every 6 hours they work, as set out in the Working Times Regulations 1998.

This may seem like an easy enough concept, however many employers think that as long as 20 minutes’ worth of break is achieved over the working period then this will be sufficient. This is not correct.

It has recently been decided in Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd that employers cannot aggregate shorter breaks to accumulate to the 20 minutes period that’s required. It was determined in this case that all employees must have a continuous and uninterrupted period of rest which lasts at least 20 minutes for every 6 hours that they work.

The break must be uninterrupted, meaning that employees cannot remain on call during this break or be expected to attend work duties. The idea behind having this break is that the employee has time to wind down without having to think about work; they cannot truly rest if they know that they may be recalled to work at any time. This makes it hard for those who work single man roles as there is no one to cover the break period. However, it has been said that this is not a satisfactory excuse to break these laws. If an employer fails to provide employees with their required breaks then they will be found in breach of the obligations under the Working Times Regulations 1998.

What could this mean for you?

This decision means that the 20 minutes break period must be taken in one go and cannot be split up throughout the day. It is unacceptable, for example, for the employee to have a 10 minute break in the morning and another in the afternoon, as this will not satisfy the legislation.

If you would like some further advice on how you can combat these issues, please Talk to Tollers. We’re here for you.

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