Does your working day eat into your lunch break? Judith Orrick looks at why eating ‘al desko’ could be affecting workers’ digestion, health and wellbeing, with a knock-on effect for employers.
Please, Sir, I want some more” — you’d rightly associate the request with Charles Dickens’ workhouse inmate Oliver Twist, but it could also be considered relevant for today’s modern worker. Yet whereas Twist needed more gruel, many workers today may simply want more time.
Lunch breaks are being swallowed up as more of us are eating ‘al desko’; so much so that it was reported recently that many workers now take only a bitesize 22-minute break. Also, outside of the office environment, workers such as couriers and carers who are paid by the job rather than the hour often don’t have time to take a proper break.
Yet the traditional one-hour lunch break isn’t set in stone. Seemingly originating with industrialisation, when workers were given time to rest between heavy shifts of manual labour, it’s a Victorian hand-me-down that appears to be purely cultural rather than legal. Current UK legislation states most workers aged over 18 who work more than six hours a day have the right to one 20-minute rest break — and whether breaks are paid or unpaid depends upon the individual contract of employment. (Specific rules exist around rest breaks for some types of employment — such as for transport workers.)1
Young workers, from the age of 16 and under the age of 18 are entitled to a 30-minute rest break if they work more than 4.5 hours. Importantly, for all ages, these breaks should be uninterrupted and taken as one continuous break.
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