Ever Wondered What The Lunch Break Law is in The UK?

Some of us can take it or leave it, and some find it an essential part of their daily working life. Regardless, the lunch break is one of the most talked about topics in the office:

  • What are you doing at lunch?
  • What are you having for lunch?
  • Are you doing that before or after lunch?
  • I’ll call them back after lunch!
  • Can I go for lunch now?

These are the type of questions that we have all asked or been asked at some point in our working life. It seems the lunch breaks is equally as important as clocking off, even for those who can take it or leave it.

Lunch Break Laws in the UK

For us in the UK, the lunch break is a legal requirement. Anyone employed for 6 hours a day or more is entitled to a 20 minute uninterrupted break away from their workstation during the middle of the working day (not at the beginning or the end, apart from special circumstances).

When carrying out ‘monotonous’ work – such as on a production line – an employer should offer enough breaks to ensure staff’s health and safety is not at risk. This does not apply to domestic workers in a private house, such as an au pair or cleaner.

It’s worth noting that employers are not entitled to offer cigarette breaks, so best to cut down all together.

Although 20 minutes is the legal requirement for a lunch break, most employers offer an hour out of the day to do as you please. Usually, this period is unpaid. Only the most generous employers will pay for rest breaks.

With this in mind, it is surprising that 56% of us don’t take our full lunch break, instead we take on average 27 minutes. One in four of us will also skip lunch altogether between two and three times a week. This is according to a survey by Total Jobs, which interviewed 7,000 workers nationwide. Ultimately, the average worker is losing a significant portion of their annual earnings.

What Does The Boss Think About Lunch Breaks?

Most would believe the boss would prefer you to work through your lunch hour.

Some staff even believe working without breaks will give them brownie points with the boss.

In actual fact bosses of big organisations are in favour of staff taking that dedicated hour for themselves.

As an example, Healthclub entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den star, Duncan Bannatyne recently published an article in The Telegraph. He said;

“You might think that encouraging employees to take regular breaks and full lunch hours would be bad for business. I take the opposite view. I think all employers should make the welfare of their staff a priority and that means making sure they break up the day and get out of the office at lunchtime, no matter how busy they might be.”

How Long Are Lunch Breaks in Other Countries?

The time allowed for lunch breaks varies around the globe. In the UK seem to have the lunch break period about right. We certainly are far luckier than Singapore Traders,who have not been allowed a lunch break for 6.5 years! Can you imagine?

On 13 November 2017, 3,000 Singapore Traders took their first one-hour lunch break for a very long time. It took place at 12 noon – the same time as their counterparts in Hong Kong. The one-hour break is actually less than the generous 90 minutes enjoyed by Traders in Malaysia, the Philippines and mainland China. Thailand wins the award for the longest lunch break, with two hours!

How Important is The Lunch Break?

There is a law about it, so the lunch break MUST be important! As we continue to work harder and for longer hours, short breaks have become essential.

There has been much research into health and wellbeing in the workplace. In fact, we have written about health and wellbeing in our own blog. Breaks certainly have a positive effect on someone’s stress level.

Not only should the lunch break be important to the employee, but the employer can enjoy improved productivity from someone, who has taken time-out in the middle of the day to relax.

In the same article that we mentioned previously, Duncan Bannatyne says, “People should love coming to work. It should be an enjoyable experience for both frontline staff and their managers. A stressed, anxious workforce is no good for anyone involved and can have a negative impact on the atmosphere in the office and levels of productivity.”

What do People do in Their Lunch Breaks?

You are legally permitted to leave your workstation during your allotted lunch break. However, many workers choose to stay put and enjoy free reign of the internet. They browse online shops, go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or just message friends.

The modern employer, however is encouraging staff to leave the comfort of their own workstation to get exercise or simply take time out from their hectic schedule.

Popular healthy lunch breaks activities include:

  1. Running
  2. Cycling
  3. Walking
  4. Going to the gym
  5. Workout
  6. Squash
  7. Playing pool
  8. Table Tennis

Other popular lunchtime pursuits include going to the pub or coffee shop, shopping and beauty treatments. You may even be lucky enough to have a qualified beautician or hairdresser, who regularly visits your workplace to provide treatments during lunch breaks.

What Facilities Should a Company Offer For Lunch Breaks?

As a refurbishment company for London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, we know that the modern employer is making significant attempts to improve the wellbeing of their staff. Companies in the South East are certainly making a conscious effort to provide a pleasant environment for their team to work, as well as re-energise.

All types of businesses are introducing new and improved facilities in the workplace to enhance wellbeing. For example, we regularly install shower rooms as part of a standard commercial fit out. This is to encourage staff to take regular exercise before/after work and during lunch breaks.

In London, the trend for midday runs is huge! Large businesses are being pushed to install one or more shower rooms for their active workforce.

Breakout rooms are another popular factor when designing an office refurbishment. They may feature a pool table, bar, drinks fridge, TV or a sofa to relax and unwind.

The Office Kitchen

The office kitchen is another facility that is often being updated to improve staff well being in the workplace. Businesses use the office kitchen to make a real statement – using lighting, décor and furnishings to make an big impact.

As well as design, it’s vital that the office kitchen features:

  • Enough work surface space for several employees to prepare lunch at one time
  • A large enough fridge to store chilled foods for lunch
  • A sink for washing up and/or a dishwasher
  • A microwave for heating food
  • Boiling water tap or kettle
  • A suitable amount of seating and tables
  • Some office kitchens also have a TV mounted on the wall

Done well, an office kitchen fit out will ensure staff have an enjoyable lunch break everyday.

What do Big Corporations Offer Staff For Lunch Breaks?

Being an office refurbishment company for London and South East, we get a lot of clients who want the “Google inspired” office interior. So, what do Google offer their staff during their lunch hour?

It’s immense, here’s just taster:

  1. If you work at Googleplex, you will get free food for breakfast, lunch and dinner from a selection of cafes throughout the campus. There’s no way of knowing how much Google spend on food each year, but Blogger, Vasanth Sridharan suggests it could be in the region of £72 million. That is a whopping shopping bill!
  2. Forget paying for your haircut, you can get a free trim at the campus hairdresser at Googleplex during your lunch break.
  3. Here’s an idea that all-size businesses can offer staff for lunch break activities; Google offer ping pong, billiards or foosball for staff during breaks. You too could have pool table, dart board, or table tennis table in your office kitchen or breakout room.

However, you choose to spend your lunch is entirely up to you, just make sure you take it. Not taking a break could do you more harm than good.

So, what are you doing for lunch?

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