Rest breaks at work

2. Taking breaks

Employers can say when employees take rest breaks during work time as long as:

  • the break is taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day (not at the beginning or end)
  • workers are allowed to spend it away from their desk or workstation (ie away from where they actually work)

It doesn’t count as a rest break if an employer says an employee should go back to work before their break is finished.

Unless a worker’s employment contract says so, they don’t have the right to:

  • take smoking breaks
  • get paid for rest breaks

Exceptions and special circumstances

There are exemptions to the rights to rest breaks.

Some workers are entitled to compensatory rest breaks, eg shift workers.

Young people and lorry and coach drivers have different rights to rest breaks.