Where a worker is entitled to a 20-minute rest break under the Working Time Regulations 1998 can this be taken as two 10-minute breaks?
Under reg.12(1) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833), where an adult worker's daily working time is more than six hours, he or she is entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of not less than 20 minutes, which the worker is entitled to take away from his or her workstation. The break should be taken during the working period and not at the beginning or end of it. Subject to this, it is up to the employer to decide the exact time at which the break is taken. Regulation 12(1) may be modified or excluded only by a collective or workforce agreement - it is not possible to modify it by means of an individual agreement with a particular worker. As such, a rest break can be taken as two 10-minute rest breaks only if there is a relevant collective or workforce agreement in place providing for this.
A collective agreement is an agreement made by or on behalf of one or more independent trade unions and one or more employers. A workforce agreement means an agreement between an employer and its workers or their elected representatives that applies to the whole workforce or to all of the members of a particular group of workers (for example, those who undertake a particular function, work at a particular workplace or work in a particular department). To be valid, a workforce agreement must be in writing and have effect for a specified period of no more than five years. It must have been circulated in draft to all workers to whom it applies, along with guidance to assist their understanding of it. It must be signed before it comes into effect either by all the representatives of the workforce or particular group of workers or, if the employer has 20 or fewer workers, by all the representatives or by the majority of the workers engaged by the employer.