Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), employees who work for more than six hours are entitled to an unpaid rest break of at least 20 uninterrupted minutes. This break should be taken at some point during the working day and not at the beginning or end of it, i.e. via a later start or an earlier finish, even if this would better suit the Company and/or your employee. If a working day exceeds twelve hours, only one rest break needs to be provided - there's no statutory entitlement to two. Please note that if your employee is under 18, then they are entitled to a 30 minute unpaid rest break, if their working day lasts more than 4 ½ hours.

Whilst the onus is on you (the employer) to ensure that proper rest breaks are provided and you must be proactive about an employee taking their rest break, you can't force an employee to take it.  So if you build a rest break into an employee's working day and they choose to work right through it, that's up to them. What's more, they can't demand any additional pay.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no specific statutory provisions that grant pregnant employees enhanced rights to rest breaks/periods. That said, you're under a duty to protect the health and safety of your employees and special duties apply in respect of expectant mothers. Avoiding health and safety risks may include granting a pregnant employee additional rest breaks or periods, which should be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

Fiona Haworth. You can contact Fiona on

If you feel that you need guidance or advice on this matter, please call Practical HR on 01702 216573 or email Fiona on the above.

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