Legal Article - Employment Law

Employee Entitlements

Rest Breaks

Workers are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes when daily working time is more than 6 hours. Young persons under 18 years of age are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 30 minutes when daily working time is more than 4.5 hours.

Where a young person is employed by more than one employer, working time is to be aggregated for the purpose of establishing whether they are entitled to a rest break. These breaks should be in working time and should not be taken either at the start, or at the end, of a working day.

The break should not overlap with a worker’s daily rest period.

Workers on unmeasured working time and certain other workers in special circumstances are exempted from this limit and collective and workforce agreements can modify or exclude the limit. The latter could agree a longer reference period.

Where special circumstances or agreements apply compensatory rest or other appropriate protection must be provided. These do not apply to young persons under 18 years of age, but their entitlement to a rest break may be modified or excluded:

• in the case of an occurrence due to unusual or unforeseeable circumstances, beyond the employer’s control, or to exceptional events, the consequences of which could not have been avoided despite the exercise of all due care by the employer;

• when the young person’s employer requires them to undertake work which is of a temporary nature and must be performed immediately; and
• No adult worker is available to do the work in place of the young person.

All the relevant conditions have to apply. Any young person carrying out work in these circumstances must be allowed equivalent compensatory rest time within the following three weeks.

Pattern of Work

Where a pattern of work involving uninterruptible or monotonous activities puts the health and safety of a worker at risk, an employer needs to consider granting regular breaks in order to reduce these risks.


The Regulations do not specify whether breaks should be paid or not. Payment is a matter for workers’ contracts with their employer.

Enforcement of Rest Breaks

The entitlement to a rest break can be enforced by workers bringing a complaint to an Employment Tribunal. The choice of whether to seek legal redress is entirely the worker’s and they may wish not to bother. In any event a worker should try to settle a dispute through the company’s grievance procedure before going to a Tribunal. The Tribunal can make an award of compensation to the worker and in doing so; will look at both the employer’s default in refusing to permit the exercise of the worker’s entitlement, and any loss sustained by the worker as a consequence of that default.


Published: 03 Jun 2011


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