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Quick lunches add up to 19 extra days' work a year, says study

The hurried lunch of the average UK worker is gifting employers an estimated 19 unpaid days of work each year, or 133 hours, a study claims.

The typical worker wolfs down lunch in 26 minutes 28 seconds, according to a survey of 2,000 people by the cheese company Leerdammer.

Almost half of respondents took less than 20 minutes to eat at their desk, while around 1 in 16 missed their lunch entirely.

Reasons given for skipping a 'full' lunch break included workload (14 per cent), and impressing their boss (11 per cent).

Lunch break misconception

The conclusions of the survey may be relying on a common misconception, however - that every worker is entitled to an hour's lunch break.

The Working Time Regulations don't mention lunch breaks specifically, but do allow for one uninterrupted 20-minute rest break during the working day, provided the working period is longer than 6 hours.

Other variations to this exist for workers aged under 18, and for certain jobs, such as air, road and see transport, the armed forces and emergency services.

Employers can decide when rest breaks are taken and don't have to pay workers for rest time.

However, contracts of employment often allow for additional paid breaks, such as an hour for lunch and a tea break in the afternoon.

Studies suggest it's a false economy to skimp on adequate breaks - heavy workloads and stress can affect performance, productivity and health.

Acas publications and services

Acas has detailed information on Working hours, and its experts can visit your organisation to help you apply the most effective terms and conditions of employment, in compliance with the Working Time Directive. See Contracts and hours: how Acas can help for more information.

Related training is also available on Contracts and terms and conditions, Employing People – A Practical Introduction, Health, work and wellbeing, and Stress.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100, or consult Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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