Rests and breaks

Employees are entitled to breaks for meals and to rest. As far as possible employers should provide breaks, facilities and comfortable surroundings for additional needs such as breastfeeding or expressing milk.

Under the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (as amended) a worker has the right to a break of 20 minutes if required to work continuously for more than six hours. 

The break should be taken during the six-hour period and not at the beginning or the end of it.

Young workers are entitled to a 30-minute break for each 4.5 hours worked. The breaks do not have to be paid unless the employment contract provides for this.

In addition a worker is entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of 11 hours between each working day and one uninterrupted weekly rest period of not less than 24 hours in each 7-day period.

The weekly rest period can be taken as either 2 periods of at least 24 hours in each 14-day period or 1 uninterrupted period of no less than 48 hours in each 14-day period. Young workers are entitled to 12 hours rest between each working day.

The maximum number of hours a worker can be required to work is limited to an average of 48 hours a week, though individuals may choose to work longer.   

Last updated: 07 June 2019