9th March 2022

R&R: Rest and the (Working Time) Regulations

A subject we frequently get asked about as employment lawyers is the working time regulations (WTR) and the consequences which stem from it. Over the next four blogs, I am going to explain some of the provisions of the WTR: the various periods of rest required; holiday implications; impact on travelling time and the extra provisions for young workers.

Rest is a big part of the WTR. There is provision for a rest period (the period between periods of work, daily and weekly) and rest breaks (an amount of time to be given each day to break up the working day). Let’s look at these in turn.

Rest periods

The WTR provide that a worker (and there are different protections for young workers which will be addressed in a separate blog) should receive both:

  • A daily rest period of 11 hours in each 24 hour period and;
  • A weekly rest period of 24 hours in each 7 day period (or, if the employer prefers, 2 periods of 24 hours in each 14 day period or one period of 48 hours in each 14 day period).

Rest breaks

In addition to the rest periods, the worker must receive a rest break each day of 20 minutes where they work longer than 6 hours (which should be away from their workstation if possible). A question we are frequently asked is does the break need to be longer where the worker works even longer (say for more than 12 hours). The short answer is no. The WTR only requires that 20 minutes be given where the worker works more that 6 hours but employers should remember their general duty to ensure the worker’s health and safety and so it might be sensible to (and employers often do) give a longer break.

The break can be unpaid and can be taken at any time but should ideally be as close to the middle of the working day. Often the requirement for a rest break is satisfied by a lunch or meal break but it must be clear that the worker is having a break. A period of downtime cannot be deemed a break retrospectively, such as during a quiet period in a shop for example.


There are extra provisions for those who carry out monotonous work (such as on a production line) because there is potentially a greater risk to health and safety and so the employer needs to make sure that the worker is given adequate rest breaks which may mean further time away from workstations, for example. There are different protections for workers in specific sectors (generally because of different health and safety concerns) or those covered by a workforce agreement. If you are in any doubt, please seek further advice.

If you have any question about this, or any employment law topic, why not sign up for our monthly Ask The Expert webinars? Alternatively, please contact any member of the Blackadders Employment Team operating across Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. We would be happy to help.

Blair Duncan, Solicitor


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