What are the minimum rest periods?

Most adult workers covered by the Working Time Regulations are entitled to:

  • a break of at least 20 minutes from work during a working day of more than six hours;
  • a rest from work of at least 11 hours in every 24-hour period; and
  • a rest of at least 24 hours in every 7 days or 48 hours in every 14-day period.

Special arrangements exist for night workers.

Most young workers aged 16 and 17 are entitled to:

  • a break of at least 30 minutes during a working day of at least 4.5 hours;
  • a rest from work of at least 12 hours in every 24-hour period; and
  • a rest of at least 48 hours in every seven-day period;

In certain cases (e.g. where continuous staffing is required such as in hospitals, care homes and prisons), the rest break can be delayed as long as compensatory rest is allowed later on.

Also, some workers, including seafarers, air cabin crew, drivers and mobile rail workers, are covered by different rules on working time.

The basic statutory right is to an unpaid rest break. Some workers, especially in workplaces where a union is recognised and has been able to negotiate rights that are better than the statutory minimum, will have a contractual right to a paid break.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.