Do employees have the right to a lunch break?
Working from home is creating rather a blurred line between employees’ work lives and their personal lives. With this in mind, many employers are likely to be encouraging rest breaks. So what does employment law say about lunch breaks?
When it comes to the rules, what are employees actually entitled to? Which employees in particular should employers be mindful of? Are there exceptions to the rules? And can an employee determine when they take their lunch break? Keep reading to find out.
The Working Time Regulations
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees are entitled to minimum rest breaks; how long is dependent on their daily working hours. Whilst legally entitled to a lunch break, the employer does not have to pay for the period in which the employee is having a break.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 governs what breaks employees are entitle to. In the main they are:
1. Rest breaks at work
Employees are entitled to one uninterrupted 20 minutes rest break during their working day, if they work more than 6 hours a day. It can be a tea or a lunch break.
2. Daily Rest
Employees are entitled to 11 hours rest between working days. So, for example, if an employee finishes work at 8pm, he/she should not be required to work until 7am.
3. Weekly Rest
Employees are entitled to either an uninterrupted 24 hours without working each week or an uninterrupted 48 hours without working each fortnight.
Note: An employer can of course offer more generous breaks, but they cannot give less than what is required under the Regulations.
Pregnant employees, young workers and work that puts health and safety at risk
In the case of a pregnant employee the employer should carry out a “risk assessment”. This should determine if a change to existing breaks is required. In the case of young employees, they are usually required to work less hours per day before they are entitled to rest breaks and usually entitled to more days off per week. Where the work is laborious the employer may consider giving employees more time to ensure they health and safety are not at risk.
Exceptions to the rules
The entitlement to breaks as outlined above by enlarge do not apply to certain categories of employees; such as emergency services/police, armed forces particularly when dealing with situations where breaks would not be feasible or practical. Other categories of employees where the rule does not apply as strictly is where the person is the Managing Director or the work is not measured. They also include Sea, Air, Road Transport employees. Their breaks and rest periods are usually negotiated differently.
Can an employee tell the employer when they want to have their lunch breaks?
No, they cannot! It is for the employer to decide when the employee has their lunch breaks. However, it cannot be at the start or end of the working day and where possible should be taken away from the area in which they work. Employees are not entitled to a “smoking” break and neither are they entitled to be paid for a rest break unless this is stipulated in their contract of employment.