What is the definition of a rest break from work?

A rest break is an uninterrupted period of at least 20 minutes, during which work should not be undertaken. You should be able to take it away from your workstation. The break should be continuous. 

Some workers, for example workers who have to deal with an emergency incident, have to miss their break. When this happens, they must be allowed “compensatory rest” for the same amount of time as the missed break. They should be allowed to take this break as soon as possible.  

Any compensatory rest must be a genuine break from work and must, as far as possible, be free from any work for at least 20 minutes.  

However, if the nature of the work prevents an uninterrupted break lasting 20 minutes, it can be made up of several shorter chunks of time which, when added together, amount to 20 minutes, as long as the rest provides the same benefit in terms of wellbeing. 

A period of downtime when you are allowed to stop working but must stay in contact with your employer is not a rest break, even if it turns out at the end of the break that it was uninterrupted. 

Rest periods include breaks during the working day, breaks between working days, and weekly rest periods. 

In addition to the specific requirement to provide rest breaks, your employer is required by the Working Time Regulations to provide adequate rest breaks where the work pattern puts workers’ health and safety at risk, in particular because work is monotonous or the work rate is predetermined. 

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.

What is WorkSmart?

A career coach that works for everyone.


Enjoy bite-sized activities delivered to you every week.

Lightbulb brain

Equip yourself with essential skills to be the best you yet.


Get the guidance you need to stay focused and reach your goals.

Worksmart circle