Break Entitlement for 8 Hour Shifts – How Long is Your Break?

An 8 hour workday is the most common shift length for those working a 40 hour week. Our guide looks at what the break entitlement for 8 hour shifts is, as well as how long you should expect your breaks to be.

Worker relaxing on a break with coffee

The legal framework which governs the breaks and rest periods within the UK is the Working Time Directive.


Break laws & The Working Time Directive

For adult workers, the law on break entitlements for 8 hour shifts is laid out in the Working Time Directive. This set of regulations also governs rest periods, and the number of hours employees can be asked to work.

All workers are entitled to breaks and rest periods regardless of the type of employment contract they have. The right to a break during the work day is statutory, and you cannot be disadvantaged at work for asking to take your break entitlement.

Break laws on 8 hour shifts for young workers are different. Young workers are entitled to longer breaks.


If You Work 8 Hours How Long is Your Break?

You are legally entitled to one break of 20 minutes if you work more than six hours a day. If you are given one break of this length, that is your statutory entitlement for the whole day.

The break must be given to you during your shift, not at the beginning or end. There are no clear rules about how long you need to work before getting your break.

This law means that on an 8 hour shift, you would be entitled to one rest break of 20 minutes. Many jobs offer more breaks than this statutory minimum. You should check your employment contract or staff handbook to find out what your employer is offering.


Entitlement to Paid Breaks

There is no obligation for your break to be paid, but your employer may pay some or all lunch and tea breaks.

Your break also doesn’t count towards the length of your working day. So on an 8 hour shift, with a 20 minute break, you are deemed to have worked 8 hours. Again, check your contract or staff handbook to make sure you are getting the correct entitlements.


8 Hour Shift Break Entitlement Overview

Curious about your entitlements on different shift lengths? You might be surprised to learn that the statutory entitlement is always the same.

Our table shows the law on breaks during UK working hours, and how long a shift has to be before the rules kick in.

Hours WorkedBreak Length
4 hours0
5 hours0
6 hours+20 minutes
7 hours20 minutes
8 hours20 minutes
9 hours20 minutes
10 hours20 minutes
11 hours20 minutes
12 hours20 minutes

It will surprise many that there is no difference in break entitlement for a 7 hour shift and breaks on a 12 hour shift. Most employers will recognise that well rested workers are more productive, but breaks of longer than 20 minutes will be at their discretion.

When a shift is exactly 6 hours long, there is no right to a break. When a shift is longer than that, even by a few minutes the statutory break entitlement kicks in. There are different rules for young workers, however.


How Many Hours Work Before a Break is Due on an 8 Hour shift?

UK law on how many hours you need to work is silent on how long you need to work before a break is due.

If you are working an 8 hour shift, the law only says you are entitled to a 20 minute rest break. It must be uninterrupted, and shouldn’t be taken before or at the end of your shift.


6 Hour Shifts & Break Entitlement Threshold

Although there’s no set law on how many hours you need to work, the longest you can work without being entitled to a break is 6 hours.

This threshold means if you work a 6 hour shift, you are not entitled to a break. If you work even a few minutes longer than this, your right to a break kicks in.

However, if your shift was 6 hours and 30 minutes you would be able to take to a 20 minute break.

This threshold means that many employers will schedule some members of staff for 6 hour shifts to reduce the amount of breaks on the rota.

If you’re working 6 hour shifts and feel it’s a long time to work without a rest, do check your employment contract. Whilst you have no statutory right to a break, your employer may offer better rest periods than the law allows for.


Break Entitlement for 8 Hour Shifts – Under 18s

For young workers, under the age of 18, the rules are different. Young workers are entitled to a longer break.

Under 18s break entitlement for an 8 hour shift is 30 minutes. The minimum shift length which must be worked to get a break is 4 hours and 30 minutes.

In addition to this, under 18s are entitled to a 12 hour uninterrupted rest period between each shift as well as two days off each week – which cannot be averaged over two weeks.


If You Don’t Think You Are Getting Enough Breaks

If you are working an 8 hour or longer shift and you don’t feel the breaks are giving you enough rest, it’s worth checking your employment contract.

Where your employer is offering breaks in excess of statutory minimums it should be mentioned in these documents. It is always worth double checking to see what your employer’s policy is. You may be entitled to longer breaks.


Not Getting Statutory Minimum Break Entitlements?

If you aren’t being offered a 20 minute break, and are working a shift of more than 6 hours, you should raise the issue with your employer.

Should the conversation not be productive, contact ACAS for help and advice. Your employer is not allowed to disadvantage you because you have asked for your legal break entitlement. You may have the right to take them to an employment tribunal if they treat you unfairly.


Missed Breaks & Rest Periods

If you are unable to take a break during your shift, or don’t get a proper rest period for any reason, you should get “compensatory rest” from your employer.

This is where you get a break at another time of equal length to the break you have missed. The term to describe this is an “equivalent period”.

Further Reading

These sites outline the rules and regulations on UK employment law around break entitlements. You can contact ACAS or Citizens Advice if you need any help resolving a dispute with your workplace.

  • UK Gov site on rest break entitlements.
  • Citizens Advice – overview on the law on rest for workers.
  • ACAS – overview of rights to rest breaks during the working day and between shifts.

Break Entitlement for 8 Hour Shifts FAQ’s

Is it illegal to work 8 hours without a break?

During an 8 hour shift you must have a break of at least 20 minutes. UK working hours law says that this is your statutory minimum entitlement. If you don’t get a break, it is against the law.

How many paid breaks in an 8 hour shift?

You are entitled to one 20 minute break on an 8 hour shift. However, there is no legal requirement for the break to be paid. Offering a paid break will be at the discretion of your employer.

Does 8 hour work day include lunch break?

Lunch breaks are not counted towards the total hours worked in a day. So if you work an 8 hour shift, and have an hour for lunch, you are considered to have worked 8 hours. Breaks are taken off the clock.

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