From the TUC

19 days pay a year lost through missed lunch breaks

12 Jan 2015, by in Working Life

Long live the lunch break – it’s under pressure and it’s  worth defending. Work would be a more stressful and boring place without it and less productive too.

Yet a new study commissioned by a well-known cheese manufacturer published today suggested that UK workers skipping their lunch break are “missing out on 19 days’ worth of pay ….the average lunch ‘hour’ now lasts for just 26 minutes and 28 seconds, however, nearly half of office staff take less than 20 minutes to eat at their desk while one in 16 skips the meal completely.”

From the point of view of the worker, not taking a contractual lunch break effectively means time working for no pay. In addition, there are some real heath risks associated with working too long without a break, and. Stopping for lunch allows some alleviation of the accumulation of daily stress.

As well as your contractual rights, which often specify a certain length of lunch break, you also have some statutory rights to protect you. The UK working time regulations specify that workers must have a break of at least 20 minutes after 6 hours work. Tougher rules apply to some jobs where safety is critical, like HGV driving, and to younger workers aged 16-17.

But squeezing the lunch break too far may also have negative effects for employers. Certainly it will impact on the morale and productivity of the workers. Too much work without a break generally means that workers become tired, slow down and lose concentration, so that both the volume and quality of work suffers. There is at least a century of research showing that a proper lunch break leads to improved hourly productivity afterwards, whereas otherwise it would simply carry on declining as the day wears on.

In addition, employers might want to reflect on the value of their staff networking together during the lunch break. Some of the niggling work problems get resolved informally when employees can meet regularly and talk face-to-face.  

So if you’d like to work out how much those sneaky sandwiches at your workstation add up to, have a go at our unpaid overtime calculator.

One Response to 19 days pay a year lost through missed lunch breaks

  1. Gail Cullen
    Jan 19th 2015, 9:28 pm

    Health not heath risks! Typo error to correct in this article

    there are some real heath risks associated with working too long without a break,