Rest breaks during a shift
You are entitled to a minimum break of 20 minutes when your daily working time is more than six hours. This should:
- be uninterrupted
- be away from your workstation
- be during working time
- not be taken at the start or end of the working day
- not overlap with your daily rest.
The regulations are silent on whether a rest break is paid time but the RCN recommends that the break should be paid.
Check your employment contract and/or policies to find out if you can leave your workplace during a break.
If current working patterns mean you cannot take your breaks (for example, where you are the only nurse), these working arrangements need to be reviewed. If you are in this position, call us to discuss arrangements for local support.
Read more about staffing concerns during handover and breaks.
Daily rest breaks
You are entitled to a rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour working period. This time may be taken over two calendar days.
Where this is not possible, you must be given “equivalent compensatory periods of rest” or “appropriate protection”.
12 hour shifts are legal. However, the regulations generally require that there should be a break of 11 consecutive hours between each 12 hour shift.
We believe that no shift should be longer than 12 hours, and that a 12 hour shift may not be appropriate for all nurses. 12 hour shifts should be considered in the context of both patient safety and the physical and psychological demands of shift work.
Read more in A Shift in the Right Direction: RCN Guidance and Staffing concerns during handover and breaks.
Weekly rest breaks
You are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of at least 24 hours in each seven day reference period. This is in addition to an 11 hours daily rest period.
Your employer can average the weekly reference period over 14 days. In a 14 day period, your employer should provide either two uninterrupted rest periods of not less than 24 hours or one uninterrupted rest period of not less than 48 hours.
Where this is not possible, equivalent compensatory rest or appropriate protection must be given to you.