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Take a break! Or breaks at work

Few of us can work for eight hours without a break. And it shouldn’t be the goal. Even for the sake of work performance itself, it’s good to take a break and rest for a while. Last but not least, the law requires it. Let’s summarise the minimum requirements for taking breaks.

Spolupracovníci si užívají přestávku v práci
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Chapters of the article

Break for food and rest

TheLabour Code requires employers to provide their employees with a lunch and rest break after six hours of work at the latest. This must last at least half an hour. However, it is possible to divide it into more than one period, as long as one of them lasts at least 15 minutes. Typically, however, this break is taken as part of the lunch break and very often people take it earlier than after six hours. But that’s fine. The break at work does not count towards working time.

In practice, we sometimes see employers who do not address employees’ breaks and do not count them. Employees may have lunch at the computer and may not require a break themselves. On the one hand, the well-known “where there is no prosecutor, there is no judge” applies, but it must be stressed that this is a practice contrary to the law.

In general, however, breaks are not paid and an employee who has a classic 8-hour shift therefore only leaves work after 8.5 hours. The only exceptions are the safety breaks listed below. The employee will be paid for these.

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If you have an electronic attendance register at your workplace, you will have noticed that even on shorter days when you work, for example, 6.5 hours, the last half hour is (usually) automatically deducted. This is just a programmed break at work that the system can deduct from your working time, whether you actually use it or not.

In the context of breaks at work, it is worth mentioning the even stricter conditions for underage employees. For them, the employer must provide a break after a maximum of 4.5 hours.

Tip: If you’re wondering how best to schedule your working hours, read our article to find out what your options are.

Safety breaks

Some employees work in difficult or hazardous conditions, or have a lot of responsibility (such as professional drivers) and are therefore legally entitled to additional well-defined breaks. However, these already count towards their working time. However, by their nature, they cannot be taken at the beginning or end of working time.

By law, this applies to employees who

  • perform monotonous work – typically working on a conveyor belt in a factory, where one product after another arrives and it is not possible to take a normal break,
  • employees who work in an unnatural position,
  • employees whose work involves general physical and local muscular strain,
  • handling loads.

In all of these cases, the employee is entitled to a five to ten minute break every two hours until the start of work.

Tip:Employment law is regulated by a number of legal provisions, but the Labour Code is its “bible”. It regulates both the basic principles and also very specific provisions describing the creation of the employment relationship and the circumstances of its duration. You will also find out what your employer must provide for you and what you are entitled to as an employee. We have therefore selected the five parts of the Labour Code that are most frequently asked about in our article and which are worth knowing.

Other exceptions to the normal regime apply to workers whose activities have been classified as hazardous according to the government regulation on health protection and who must continuously use personal protective equipment or other devices that make it difficult for them to move, breathe or see. We have recently encountered this, for example, in some specialist covid units. These employees are entitled to an initial break of at least 15 minutes after two hours of work, followed by a break of at least 10 minutes after a further two hours. The last break should be at least ten minutes and should be scheduled no later than one hour before the end of the shift.

The regime of drivers having responsibility for their own lives as well as the lives of others is quite well known among the public. Therefore, the law guards that they should not drive too tired and intersperse their driving with breaks. Specifically, for drivers of vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, there is a maximum driving time of 4.5 hours, followed by a break of at least half an hour. However, it can also be divided into two parts of at least 15 minutes each.

Working hours and rest periods

So far, we have looked at breaks that you can take as part of your normal working hours, whether or not they count towards them. However, the Labour Code also regulates so-called rest periods, i.e. the time between two shifts, rest days and uninterrupted weekly rest.

Rest periods

According to the Labour Code, an employee is entitled to at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between shifts. However, in some cases the law allows this rest period to be reduced to only 8 hours in 24 consecutive hours. This is again the case, for example, in the health sector or in agriculture, where work is often dependent on the weather. However, the employer must allow the employee to choose the rest period so reduced when he or she takes the following rest

Uninterrupted weekly rest

The next period of leave you are legally entitled to is uninterrupted weekly rest of at least 35 hours. Typically this will be at the weekend and indeed Sundays should also fall within this rest period. Of course, some businesses and some jobs also require weekend work. In such cases, leave is granted on other days and for work on Saturdays and Sundays at the rate of 10% of average earnings.

Tip: We have also covered average earnings and their calculation in our article on wage replacement.

Days off work

Another protection for the employee is that the employer may not order the employee to work on days of rest (days on which the employee has uninterrupted rest during the week and on public holidays). The prohibition may be broken only in exceptional situations, such as urgent repair work, inventory and closing work, work in transport, work necessary to meet the living, health, educational, cultural and other needs of the population.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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