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A study by Tetley of 2,000 workers found that 44 per cent believe they are too busy to take a tea break, and one in five don’t take tea breaks in case their boss thinks they are slacking. This is worrying news for Tetley and I’m sure they’ll start lobbying to bring back the traditional British tea break forthwith…

While we don’t take tea breaks as such, we do all take it in turn to make a round of tea throughout the day. While I usually manage three or four sips and then forget all about it, I do still get a drink. And we all take a 30 minute lunch break.

I believe that taking a break during the working day is important, even if it’s just getting away from your work area for 15 minutes. To ensure that the team do so I have a rule that nobody eats at the work station. It has the additional benefits of being far more hygienic. We are less likely to suffer from vermin taking up residence in the office; I recall I wrote a blog once about a police officer who was found to have a mouse’s nest in or on his desk. The varmints can be very cheeky and are clearly no respectors of the law. We are also not going to have expensive accidents involving soup falling over the equipment and there’s not going to be any grumbling about smelly sandwiches (think egg and fish). So win-win, we think.

Some employees will work through their breaks and try to make a point of it to impress their manager. Even five minutes away from the desk can be beneficial; just by giving your eyes a break from the screen and stretching your legs. Working solidly throughout the day is often counterproductive and can also be detrimental to health.

Working Time Regulations govern the hours workers can work and also gives detail on statutory holiday, break periods and days off each week. An individual’s working hours will have a great impact on work-life balance. Some prefer a regular working pattern, for example, Monday to Friday nine to five, while others will prefer shift work which could include early starts, late finishes and night work. Different roles and sectors will have business needs that must to be met in order for business to run smoothly.

Generally, Working Time Regulations give the following rights.

  • A limit of 48 hours on the number of average hours per week a worker can be required to work. The average number of hours is calculated over a 17 week period. An individual can choose to work more hours by ‘opting out’ of this particular clause.
  • A worker is entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid leave per year. For a full time employee this is equivalent to 28 days and can include bank holidays. This is pro-rated for part time employees. 5.6 weeks’ leave is the minimum you must offer, you may offer more should you wish to.
  • In any 24 hour period an employee should have 11 consecutive hours rest. So if an individual finishes working at 9.00pm, he should not start working again until at least 8am.
  • Anyone who works for longer than six hours in one working day is entitled to a 20 minute uninterrupted rest break. This should be taken during working hours; not at the beginning or end of working hours. Again, you can offer a longer break should you wish to.
  • A worker is entitled to one day off per week. This can be averaged over two weeks. Night workers are limited to an average of eight hours work in any 24-hour period. Night workers are also entitled to receive regular health assessments.

The rules are different for younger workers; that is anyone under the age of 18. Their working hours are restricted to 40 per week and eight hours per day. If a young worker works for more than four and a half hours per day he will be entitled to a 30 minute break. Young workers are also entitled to two days off each week.

The rules on working time are clear but one thing will continue to cause a debate; is the proper way of making tea adding the milk before or after the water?!