Employers should encourage employees to take their breaks, but are there any penalties for the employer if the employees don’t take them?
The Working Time Regulations 1998(WTR) set out that all workers should be allowed an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes during their working day, if they work for more than 6 hours in a day.
The ‘rest’ must be away from their work station.
Workers over 18 are usually entitled to 3 types of break – rest breaks at work, daily rest and weekly rest.
The break doesn’t have to be paid – it depends on the employment contract.
Employers are not required to force breaks upon their employees if they decide not to take them, but are required to ensure that employees are aware they are entitled to take breaks and encourage them to do so. If employees are also VDU users, they should also have time away from the VDU screen at regular intervals throughout the day.
Research shows that employees who don’t take regular breaks are more likely to become stressed or become ill. If an employee were to become ill demonstrably as a result of not having taken breaks, it is possible that a personal injury claim could be brought by the employee under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – even though it may be difficult to show a direct link between the illness and the lack of breaks. In essence, despite the link being difficult to prove, any issues of employees becoming ill due to excessive work should be dealt with promptly by employers.
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