Most managers know that staff are entitled to time off work, but understanding exactly what the rules are can get confusing. With that in mind, here are the basics around rest periods for your employees.
Mid-shift rest breaks
Workers are entitled to a minimum rest break of 20 minutes if they work a shift of longer than six hours. The break needs to come somewhere in the middle of the shift, rather than being tacked on to the end to allow the worker to leave earlier. The worker must genuinely be free to leave their workstation and the break does not have to be paid. For young workers (under 18), the compulsory break is 30 minutes in a shift of more than 4 ½ hours.
Adults are entitled to daily rest breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts (12 hours for young workers). This can vary where someone is swapping from one shift to another shift and cannot take the requisite rest in between, or where someone works split shifts (for example cleaning staff). Where this happens, the worker must get “compensatory rest”, i.e. they cannot lose out overall.
For staff who work on an on-call basis, even if they are allowed to sleep and don’t get called out during their on-call shift, this doesn’t count as daily rest if they are at the workplace and/or not allowed to leave.
Adults are entitled to uninterrupted weekly rest of 24 hours, or 48 hours a fortnight, either in two 24 hour periods or one chunk of 48 hours. For under 18 s this is 48 hours weekly.
Unlike the 48 hour maximum working week, the rest break element of the Working Time Directive isn’t something workers can opt out of. However arrangements can be varied by collective or workforce agreement, as long as there is compensatory rest. There are also a number of exceptions to the rules above, as we’ve only covered the basics, so if you are not sure how the rules apply in your business, or would like advice on managing rest breaks at work, do