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Making up for lost breaks with compensatory rest

We all need breaks, and our right to rest is enshrined in Working Time Regulations (WTR), which define how many breaks employees are entitled to each day and week. But what happens when employees have to work through a break, or their break is interrupted by urgent business? In these cases, employees may be entitled to compensatory rest.

Compensatory rest is allowed when a worker has to work through a rest period. The employee is entitled to take the rest when possible, ideally on the same day. The regulations suggest that, as long as a worker receives at least 90 hours' rest per week on average, then the rest obligations are being met.

The period of compensatory rest allowed should be equal to the interrupted portion of rest - not the entire break.

The WTR allow adult workers a daily rest period of 11 hours per day, a weekly rest period of 24 hours' uninterrupted rest per week, and one rest break of 20 minutes after working for more than six hours.

There are exceptions to these rules, such as in the case of security staff, hospital workers and people involved in rail, sea, air and road transport. Other workers, such as shift workers and those who need to provide a continuous presence or service may also be exempted from the regulations.

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