Government regulations stipulate that anyone working for a shift longer than six hours is entitled to one continuous twenty minutes break. This rule applies throughout the United Kingdom. However, there are modifiers to this overall rule and not everyone enjoys the same right. These rules were wet by a law called “The Working Time Regulations (1998).” The rules apply equally to permanent and contract staff. Lunch breaks count as the mandatory break. You are not entitled to a 20 minute break in addition to lunch.
The statutory minimum break does not apply to workplaces where a “Workforce Agreement” or Union agreement in place. Such agreements are negotiated either on an industry-wide, or workplace basis. The workforce would expect to get some compensation to agree to forgo this right.
Doctors in training, fishermen, oil rig workers and members of the armed forces and emergency services are not covered by the minimum break ruling. Neither are security guards or anyone whose work requires a continuity of service. Employed taxi drivers, van drivers and couriers are also not covered by this regulation. The Working Time Regulations do not apply to domestic staff.
A “young worker” is defined as those who are over the school leaving age, but under 18. The Working Time Regulation gives a longer break time for young people. If a young worker has a shift of more than four and a half hours, she is entitled to an uninterrupted break of 30 minutes.
Drivers of trucks of more than three and a half tons and drivers of buses carrying 9 or more people have special provisions in the law. They must have a break of 45 minutes after driving for four and a half hours.
The law does not stipulate exactly when the compulsory break should occur. However, it does state that it has to be some way into the shift and not at either the beginning or ends of the shift. Workers do not have the right to a break at a specific time. Even if all workers regularly take their break at the same time every day, an employer has the right to ask a worker to continue working through that time, if exceptional circumstances arise. The employer must give that worker the required period of break at some other period during the shift.