Do you feel like you can get out and stretch your legs during a lunch break?  Or do you religiously take lunch sat at your desk; one hand holding your sandwich whilst the other is still vigorously typing away?

Do you even take a lunch break, or just part of it? And if so, do you ever feel guilty if you end up taking it all?

Your own choice

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t have enough hours in the day to complete the tasks that are set for you, whether by yourself or your manager; cutting short or skipping your lunch break can often be your own choice.  However, if you get into the pattern of doing this, it can be difficult to slip back out of it and feel as though it’s okay, and even normal, to take a full lunch break.

What does the law say?

Basically, you’re entitled to a break.  If you are over 18 and work over 6 hours a day, you’re entitled to at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted break time every day.

Are there exemptions to this rule?

Yes – if your contract of employment stipulates different rights to breaks at your place of work, but if this gives you less break time, there would have to be different break arrangements put into place (such as compensatory rest).  There may also be ‘collective’ or ‘workforce’ agreements that mean your rights to a break may have been changed or even removed; if agreed between management, trade unions and yourself.

So, should I feel guilty or not?

The answer is no – you shouldn’t feel guilty.  You have a right to a break for good reasons – including the health and safety of yourself and others around you whilst you’re at work.  Most people are entitled to spend their break away from their desk or workstation and if you were to be instructed to get back to work before your break had finished, this shouldn’t even be counted as an actual rest break, unless of course you’re making the decision yourself.

Problems regarding rest breaks at your place of work?

In the first instance, if you feel as though you are not able to take the breaks that you should be entitled to, speak to your manager – they may not even be aware that this is the case.

If this doesn’t help things, your company should have a grievance procedure for you to follow in order to make a complaint in writing.  Following this, you should have a more formal meeting with your employer who will make a decision regarding whether you have a valid grievance or not.

If you’re still unhappy at this point, you have a right to appeal your employer’s decision.