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Sometimes all we need to do is take a step away from our desks and switch-off. Overworking can have a range of negative effects on your health and as such, there are many regulations that safeguard the health of workers relating to breaks.

Studies have found that a short period away from the desk increases brain power and productivity upon your return. However, some employers make it difficult for employees to take their appropriate break and for some, the very nature of their work makes it near impossible.

Laws on rest breaks

Workers aged over 18 in England and Wales are entitled to a 20-minute rest break in a six-hour working period under the Working Time Regulations 1998. Those under 18 are permitted to a rest break of 30 minutes when over four and a half hours are worked. Some employees are entitled to a longer break than this, depending on the terms of their contract of employment.

Even if the employee makes no request for a rest break, the employer will be in breach of the Regulations if provisions are not made for a break. It is an employer’s responsibility to organise working arrangements that allow and encourage employees to take their rest breaks.

Working time regulations and rest breaks

The Working Time Regulation provides employees with the rights to:

  • Paid annual leave of a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ a year
  • 11 consecutive hours’ rest in a 24 hour period
  • A 20 minute rest break for working days longer than six hours
  • One day off each week

What counts as a break?

A rest break is a period of time within working hours where you are freed from the responsibilities of your job. The worker must be made aware in advance the break will be uninterrupted and they can use the break as they please. A period cannot retrospectively become a 20 minute rest break.

Grange vs Abellio case

The Grange vs Abellio case last year resulted in the Employment Appeal Tribunal concluding that employers have an obligation to afford the worker the ability to take a rest break.

The case showed that where an employer implements working arrangements that make it difficult for employees to take breaks, the employee will be able to bring a claim for the infringement of their rights. This is a cautionary case for employers that manage challenging workloads.

Specialist employment law solicitors

If you feel that your employer is not giving you the rest breaks that you are entitled to, contact our specialist employment law team. For further advice use the telephone numbers below: