We all know how good it feels to stop and take a break when you are working. Often, staff can feel under pressure not to take as many breaks as they should, or to cut them short in favour of working harder or longer hours.
Whilst this might seem like a more productive use of your time, the truth is actually something very different. In this article, we take a look at why its good to take those breaks, as well as outlining exactly what you are entitled to.
What does a break do?
We all want to perform at our best but trying to work without adequate breaks is not the way to do it. We have all experienced moments when we have pushed ourselves too hard, and the impact is never a good one. The truth, that some of us don’t like to accept, is that we are not physically or mentally able to work flat out for long periods of time and therefore our breaks become vital.
When we take a break, we give our brains chance to reset, which allows us to focus better. It aids concentration and therefore makes us more productive than if we decided to work straight through.
Taking the right kind of break is also important, and things like grabbing a healthy snack not only gives you time away from your desk but also allows both body and mind to replenish itself and set up a gradual release of glucose that will keep you going in a more sustained way.
It is also beneficial to connect with those around you, so sitting together for a coffee, heading out for a walk and generally avoiding the subject of work is a good way to give your brain the rest it needs and stimulate other areas.
Your break entitlements
Breaks in the workplace are governed by the Working Time Regulations (1998) and your own contract of employment. These regulations explain that if you work more than 6 hours, you will need an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes that can be taken away from your workspace.
This means either outside or in a designated rest area and should not be taken at the very start of very end of a shift. Employers are not obliged to pay you for your breaks, but most salaried jobs will cover this as part of your wage, so it is important to check what it says in your terms of employment.
There have been many debates about smoking breaks, which can be a bone of contention in many workplaces. Currently, employers are not legally required to give workers specific smoking breaks, but this can be done during any other rest break as long as it is in an appropriate area.
You are also entitled to a minimum of 11 hours of rest a day, which means shifts cannot be scheduled too close to each other. There is also an entitlement of 24 hours of uninterrupted rest every 7 days, to ensure that workers cannot be made to work every day. As an employee, you are also entitled to at least 5.6 weeks of annual leave.
There are, of course, some exceptions to these rules, but these tend to be applied in special circumstances. Ensuring that you take a proper break is not only good for your workload, your mind and your body but is also a legal requirement and so it is up to you and your employer to make sure that everybody gets this.