The Simple But Risky Law On Rest Break Requirements Part II

9 March 2022

Law On Rest Break Requirements

Welcome to part 2 of this blog post. In part 1, we covered rest break requirements and their specific laws, the penalties that come with it, and many other things. Click here to check it out.

In part 2, we’re going to go into the laws of rest breaks for 5 hour and 8 hour employees, how long they can work for unceasingly, and what an employee may do if you won't give them a break. Let’s get started.

Rest Break Requirements For An 8-Hour Worker

An 8-hour day is the most common working pattern of todays society, so we’ll make it simple for you to understand the law around this particular topic.

What They’re Entitled Too

A person working 8 hours is always entitled to one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break.

Every day, a person has a right to 11 hours between work days.

In terms of weekly rest, they are entitled to 24 hours without work, or 48 hours every fortnight.

These breaks are also shared for a person working 7 hours, but not 6 hours exactly. If it’s 6 hours exactly, they’re not entitled to any daily breaks as part of their legal requirements.

When Work Breaks Are Exempt

Breaks are generally exempt in industries that require constant, hands on attention.

According to, these industries are:

  • The Armed Forces
  • Emergency services (Police only count during exceptional emergencies)
  • Jobs where you set your hours
  • Sea Transport
  • Air or road transport
  • Seasonal jobs

There are special rules that apply to different industries that may affect break times, so make sure to brush up on them if they apply to your specific industry.

Rest Break Requirements For A 5-Hour Worker

5-hour shift workers are not entitled to the 20-minute breaks we’ve been talking about recently. The cap for a 20-minute break is over 6 hours, so anything below this threshold is exempt.

Should They Have A Break?

Whilst 5 hours isn’t a long time, depending on the work involved, it may warrant a short break on its own. Monotonous work, like factory line work, can develop stress in your employees, especially if a mistake is made due to zoning out, or simply lack of rest.

Whilst not required by law at all, it is something to consider. In customer-facing roles, the job itself can be stressful when dealing with rude customers, and a short 10-minute break can be beneficial to the inflicted employee.

It’s up to you to decide on how to treat a 5-hour shift worker. In some cases, a short break can keep an employee grateful. Depending on the work, it may be needed, regardless of law.

How Long Can An Employee Work Unceasingly?

This is all dependent on the type of work. For general jobs, the same rules apply for 5-hour and 8-hour shifts. As stated, in some cases, there will be times when you can have an employee work longer shifts.

The Specifics

The reason we have work breaks ties into health and safety. However, if the work of the job outweighs the right to a break, then the breaks can be omitted from their schedule.

This is down to law, rather than opinion. For example, if you’re a domestic worker in a private house, you are not entitled to a break by that very same law. Any breaks would be up to the decision of your employer.

In other instances, roles where you decide your own hours, like a managing director or someone who is self-employed, are also not covered by law to take a break. But in these circumstances, the hours and the breaks, would be up to their own leisure.

There aren’t many industries that exist that can skirt around not giving their employees their legally allowed break, so only in special cases, can the break be taken away.

What Can a Worker Do If You Won't Give Them A Break?

Let’s assume that you’re not up-to-date on the UK’s break law. You have an employee who wishes to take a break, but It's far too busy, and you need them.

However, they do know the law. What happens?

The Steps They Can Take

The first thing they’ll do is talk to you about it. This is an informal process, and if the law is cited, it should be agreed upon.

But if it isn’t, the next step for the employee is to start a grievance, which is where they can write a letter to HR, and get a union rep involved, if they are part of one.

If there is still no agreement, matters can be taken further by applying for an employment tribunal. Before this, something called an “Early Conciliation” will take place to try and resolve matters on an external level, handled by ACAS.

Again, if failing even that, a tribunal will take place, where the law is involved. If the employee wins, this could lead to paying out compensation. If you don’t have the money, the government can provide high court enforcement officers to handle the collections for them.

How To Avoid This

Generally, if an employee complains, and they can confirm it’s against the law, the most peaceful option you can take is to provide the breaks as intended.

If you are, however, giving the correct amount of intended breaks, and you can prove it, this should be explained to the employee straight away. They won't be happy, but you’re not breaking the law.


Rest break requirements are not a joke. The law needs to be followed perfectly, or you’re opening yourself up to a lot of pain later down the line.

Even if you’re not in a special industry that exempts breaks, it’s still a wiser choice to brush up on the general law around rest breaks. Employees will have a hard time without that break, and they’ll fight tooth and nail to get it from you if you’re withholding it from them.

Always consult a legal expert before setting up your workforce, as it will save you time in the long run. If you get it right in the beginning, you’ll have no problems taking care of your employees.

Rather than rely on a laborious and manual employee shift tracker, it may be in your best interest to work with something that allows complete transparency between you and your employees, from the comfort of their phones and devices.

Shiftbase has a clean user interface, making it easier for your employees to know when their shifts are. It also includes a live time tracker, so you know exactly when to send them home after a hard day's work.

Try out Shiftbase for free, with no hidden costs. Work smarter, not harder.