By law, we are all entitled to adequate breaks throughout our working day. These differ in terms of how often they are given, and the ‘types’ of breaks offered. Different breaks are needed based on the work being done, and the number of continual hours worked.
Rest breaks from work are not just important to employees but they are also important to employers. This is because productivity and health and safety could be compromised. If workers do not get minimum break periods required under law, it can affect both.
It’s often for these reasons that many companies will give you longer breaks than they’re required to. They will often try to structure these in a way which caters to the role a worker is carrying out. Here is a look at some of the ways breaks can be structured and the reasons why they’re important.
Scheduling Breaks at Work
Where it’s possible to do so, employers should allocate appropriate breaks based upon consideration of the factors below.
- Age and gender.
- Nature of the job.
- Environment in which the job is performed.
- Level of physical activity involved.
- Degree of repetition or monotony of a particular job.
- Experience of the worker in that particular role.
Different Types of Breaks
Workplace studies have found workers are more productive if they have several shorter breaks as opposed to one longer one. For most full time jobs, two shorter breaks either side of longer ‘lunch’ break is adequate. However, employers may also need to consider other factors related to the type of work.
Workers who Benefit from More Frequent Short Breaks
For example, with very physical jobs several much shorter breaks will often help reduce fatigue and increase productivity. Those who work in extreme environments which are either very hot or very cold may also benefit. They should spend break times outside of these extreme temperatures to avoid cold or heat stress at work.
People who work in repetitive jobs and those whose work involves constant monitoring should be offered more frequent shorter breaks. This is in order to prevent boredom which can sometimes result in human error or a reduction in proficiency.
People who work at a computer all day also need to be able to get screen breaks every hour or so. They should also be to be able to get up and move around. This makes sure that they’re not in a seated posture all day staring at a vdu screen. These breaks form an important part of the employer’s duty of care for those at computer workstations. Sitting for prolonged periods can contribute to occupational health issues such as workplace related back pain.
Why Tailoring Breaks to Support Workforce Wellbeing is Important
The rationale is to restructure breaks and rest times so that each type of worker can get most benefit.
Another example of this might be where a person who works behind a computer screen all day comes away from it every hour. Instead of screen work they might do some filing or a different task to do for 10 minutes or so. This means that they’re not staring at the computer screen all day.
Therefore, whilst it’s not always possible, where an employer is able to tailor breaks and structure them in a way which suits a particular type of job, the benefits will be clear for both the worker and the company alike.
- Our guide on the law around break entitlements for an 8 hour shift looks at rest entitlements for employees.
- Workers on long shifts often wonder how much rest they are entitled to. Our guide on breaks during 12 hour shifts outlines the rules as per the Working Time Directive.
- Are lunch breaks included in working hours? We take a look at how to accurately calculate your average working hours.