HR · 28 August 2020

What is the minimum time between shifts I have to give staff?

Where a shift is more than 6 hours, the minimum break time should be 20 minutes
The minimum amount of time off that should be provided to a worker is set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998. This covers rules on minimum annual leave, weekly rest breaks and minimum time between shifts, writes Peninsula’s Kate Palmer.

The regulations cover the amount of break time a worker should have during the working day. There are different entitlements depending on how old the worker is, and the entitlements are commonly misunderstood.

Workers are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period during which they work. It is not necessary for the 11 hours to fall in the same calendar day provided that they are consecutive.

The daily rest break is 12 hours for young workers (those above school age but not yet 18), which must be continuous unless the work periods are split or of short duration.



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The situation is slightly different for shift workers when they change shift or when their activities involve periods of work split up over the day. The daily rest period does not need to be provided, and workers are exempt from the daily rest requirements provided that they are given equivalent periods of compensatory rest.

What this means is that, where the full 11-hour break was not provided when it should have been, the element that was foregone should be given at the next available opportunity.

Workers are entitled to a weekly rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours in a seven day reference period. For adult workers, the 24-hour weekly rest entitlement can, at the employer’s option, be averaged over a 14-day period by giving two rest periods of at least 24 consecutive hours or one rest period of at least 48 consecutive hours in each 14-day period.

This weekly rest period should commence immediately after a daily rest period of 11 hours unless there good business reasons for it not to.

Young workers should have two 24 hour rest periods, preferably consecutive, in each seven day reference period.

Contractual lunch breaks will differ greatly from organisation to organisation and employers are entitled to fix these as they wish provided that they do not give any less than the minimum expressed in the legislation.

The minimum time between shifts a worker should have in his working day is 20 minutes where his working hours are more than 6 hours. Note that the working hours must be more than 6 in order to attract a break. Therefore, if a worker works from 8am 2pm, the entitlement to a statutory break is not triggered. Naturally an employer may still provide a break if they choose.



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Kate Palmer CIPD is the head of advisory at law firm Peninsula and is a member of its senior leadership team. She joined in 2009 having held a senior HR manager's role in another large company. With a specialist background in facilities management in the NHS, Kate offers a wealth of employment law experience. She's an expert negotiator - one notable case was with the NHS's trade unions over terms and conditions in the Agenda for Change pay system.

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