HR & Employment Law: New ruling on 20 minute rest breaks.

A rest break is defined as an uninterrupted period of not less than 20 minutes if the worker’s working time is more than six hours. The worker is entitled to spend their rest break away from their workstation (if they have one) (Regulation 12(1) and (3), Working Time Regulations 1998).

Is a worker entitled to a 20-minute rest break for each six-hour period worked?

Special cases under regulation 21 of the WTR

Workers falling within a number of “special cases” under regulation 21 of the WTR, including those engaged in “security and surveillance activities requiring a permanent presence” (regulation 21(b)), are excluded from entitlement to a rest break under regulation 12(1). However, in such cases, regulation 24 provides that:
“(a) his employer shall wherever possible allow him to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest, and
(b) in exceptional circumstances in which it is not possible, for objective reasons, to grant such a period of rest, his employer shall afford him such protection as may be appropriate in order to safeguard the worker’s health and safety.”


This decision offer employers more flexibility when preparing shift rotas, especially for lone workers as they do not have to find someone to cover breaks which will reduce costs and the complexity of managing staff.
Employers will, however, need to be able to evidence that workers can take breaks.

If you are unsure whether you are complying with legislation in relation to staff breaks, please contact us and we’ll be happy to guide you through it.