Rest breaks at work

Compensatory rest

Workers may be entitled to ‘compensatory rest’ if they don’t have the right to specific rest breaks. Compensatory rest breaks are the same length of time as the break (or part of it) that they’ve missed.

A worker may be entitled to compensatory rest if:

  • they’re a shift worker and can’t take daily or weekly rest breaks between ending one shift and starting another
  • their workplace is a long way from their home (eg an oil rig)
  • they work in different places which are a reasonable distance from each other
  • they’re doing security and surveillance-based work
  • they’re working in an industry which is very busy at certain times of the year – like agriculture, retail, postal services or tourism
  • they need to work because there’s an exceptional event, an accident or a risk that an accident is about to happen
  • the job needs round-the-clock staffing so there aren’t interruptions to any services or production (eg hospital work)
  • they work in the rail industry on board trains or their job is linked to making sure trains run on time
  • their working day is split up (eg they’re a cleaner and work for part of the morning and the evening)
  • there is an agreement between management, trade unions or the workforce (a ‘collective’ or ‘workforce’ agreement) that has changed or removed rights to these rest breaks for a group of workers

The total rest entitlement for a week is 90 hours a week on average - this doesn’t include breaks at work, which are additional.