What Is The Minimum Time Between Shifts I Have To Give Staff

If you are an employer asking what the minimum time between shifts I have to give staff is, you can find everything you need to know in the Working Time Regulations 1998 directive.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


31 December 2021


16 July 2024
7 min read

Adult workers over the age of 18 are entitled to a minimum of 11 hours between shifts and young workers aged 16 and 17 must have a minimum of at least 12 hours between shifts. Those on zero-hours contracts usually have the same rights regarding rest periods as those with full contracts, but exceptions to these minimum rest requirements are available for some industries, types of jobs, split-shift patterns and if workers opt out of the 48-hour week.  

As outlined above, the amount of time off that employers must provide workers between shifts varies by worker age and is governed by law.


Breaks at work 

Employers must ensure that workers are given at least the minimum required amount of breaks during their shift, between shifts and have sufficient rest over the course of a working week, as well as providing annual leave, and these breaks are generally referred to as rest periods

For adult workers, over the age of 18, the minimum rest period in 24 hours should be no less than 11 consecutive hours, they should have at least one day off a week, and at least one break of a minimum of 20 uninterrupted minutes for a shift that is longer than six hours. 

For workers aged between 16-18, the minimum rest period in 24 hours should be no less than 12 consecutive hours, they should have at least one day off a week, and at least one break of a minimum of 30 uninterrupted minutes for a shift that is longer than 4.5 hours.


Rest Period Compliance

Although rest periods are governed by law, it’s an equally important factor for employers who wish to ensure that their workforce is properly rested and not overworked to take into consideration when planning rotas. Adhering to the regulation is beneficial to both workers and employees as it means staff wellbeing is supported and work environments are more likely to be happier and more productive.

If you are unsure if your shift patterns meet minimum break and rest periods for workers, if your employees have raised concerns about rest time, or if you are unsure of your obligations in line with the Working Time Regulations, then professional HR support can help you to navigate these topics and conversations successfully.


HR Support For Employers 

Neathouse Partners provide employment law & HR services for employers. Our solution-driven, personal service ensures that employers have access to a named and dedicated HR or employment lawyer to help them expertly navigate HR best practice and employment law, regardless of how complex the issue may seem.

If you need to have conversations about shift patterns and rest breaks, then Neathouse Partners can help you to ensure that you remain compliant with Working Time Regulations, whilst your staff feel rested enough to remain productive and engaged in their work.  

Read on to find out more about rest periods at work, what employees are entitled to, and how to meet your employer obligations under UK employment law. 

Daily And Weekly Rest Periods 

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Workplace breaks are governed by The Working Time Regulations 1998 as amended. This legislation describes the various types of work breaks, the time between breaks, who they apply to, and what employee and employer responsibilities are. 

In regards to daily and weekly rest periods, which in turn determine the minimum time between shifts, it says; 

  • Adult workers over the age of 18 are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hours that they work. The 11 hours can bridge two different days, as long as they are consecutive. For example, if an employee's shift finished at 10:00 pm on a Tuesday, the earliest time that they could start their next shift would be 09:00 am on Wednesday. 
  • Young adult workers of school leaving age to 18 are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 12 consecutive hours in every 24 hours that they work. The 12 hours can fall over two different days, as long as they are consecutive. For example, if a 16 or 17-year-old's shift ended at 10 pm on a Tuesday, the earliest time that they could start their next shift would be 10 am on Wednesday. 
  • Workers should have at least 90 hours of rest in a week. 
  • Workers are entitled to 24 hours' uninterrupted rest every 7 days or this can be replaced by two 24-hour rest periods or one period of 48 hours uninterrupted rest every two weeks.

What If My Team Hasn't Had Enough Rest? 

Sometimes, it’s just not possible for employees to finish or start work on time, and when this happens it may result in members of your team not having enough rest between their shifts. 

Some examples of when this could occur are if there is an emergency at work that people need to stay later than planned, or if employees are changing between a day and night shift within the same 24 hours. 

If employees can’t have their required uninterrupted minimum rest period between shifts, then it is your responsibility as the employer to ensure the missed rest period or portion of the total amount that has been missed is taken as soon as reasonably possible. 

Exceptions To The Rules

Red coloured counters lined up with one blue counter

There are certain groups of workers and certain jobs where different rules regarding minimum time between shifts and rest periods apply. 

For example, there are different rules for night workers, shift workers, those under 18, those who work in a job where they freely choose the hours they work (e.g. a managing director), lorry drivers, coach drivers, air, road and sea transport workers, the armed forces, and the emergency services. Find out more about exceptions to rest break rules. 

  • For shift workers who change from a day to a night shift pattern on the same day, or if they have two shifts split up over the same day, the daily rest period does not need to be provided as long as they are subsequently given the equivalent rest period as compensatory rest soon after. 
  • A compensatory rest period means that when the full minimum 11-hour consecutive rest periods were not provided or were not possible to take, then it should be given at the next available opportunity. 
  • If staff work split shifts on the same day, i.e. a cleaner who works 8 am - 2 pm and 3 pm - 8 pm, the minimum amount of rest between the shifts should be 20 minutes if working hours are over 6 hours. 

What Is Compensatory Rest? 

Female legs resting up on a briefcase

Compensatory rest is triggered when an employee hasn’t been able to or isn’t entitled to their full 11 or 12 hour rest period within a 24-hour period. Compensatory rest breaks must then be taken as soon as possible after the break was missed. 

The compensatory rest will be the same length of time as the break (or part of it) that they’ve missed. If however, over a week, the worker accumulates at least 90 hours of rest, then you are considered to have met your employer obligations. 

According to gov.uk, workers may be entitled to compensatory rest if; 

  • they’re a shift worker and can’t take daily or weekly rest breaks between ending one shift and starting another
  • their workplace is a long way from their home (eg an oil rig)
  • they work in different places which are a reasonable distance from each other
  • they’re doing security and surveillance-based work
  • they’re working in an industry which is very busy at certain times of the year – like agriculture, retail, postal services or tourism
  • they need to work because there’s an exceptional event, an accident or a risk that an accident is about to happen
  • the job needs round-the-clock staffing so there aren’t interruptions to any services or production (eg hospital work)
  • they work in the rail industry onboard trains or their job is linked to making sure trains run on time
  • their working day is split up (eg they’re a cleaner and work for part of the morning and the evening)
  • there is an agreement between management, trade unions or the workforce (a ‘collective’ or ‘workforce’ agreement) that has changed or removed rights to these rest breaks for a group of workers

Employer Obligations 

Male and female sitting opposite each other. Employee and employer.

It is your duty as an employer to monitor employee work patterns and ensure that your workers get their full legal minimum daily and weekly rest breaks. The breaks should be in line with employees' age and hours worked as set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 directive, unless valid restrictions or exemptions apply. 

If minimum rest periods cannot be adhered to for any reason, you must provide compensatory rest as soon as possible after the less than minimum required rest period or that employees have at least 90 hours of rest over a week. You should note that the 90 hours does not include rests during working hours as these are additional. 

You can also choose to offer additional or extended breaks to workers, and can even include paid-for breaks. This can be a great draw when looking to attract new employees and a great way to boost staff retention, morale, employee performance and focus. 

Related Questions 

How Can I Ask Staff To Work More Shifts? 

Now that you’re aware of the need to ensure at least 90 hours of rest per week or meet the minimum of 11 hours of rest between shifts, you may be wondering whether you can still ask your staff to do additional shifts or hours.  

Additional shifts and extra hours are necessary to cover busy periods of work, staff shortages or increased demand for services such as Christmas and Easter for hospitality industries. It’s therefore common for staff to want to take on extra hours to support the businesses. This is fine, as long as total working hours do not exceed 48 hours a week averaged over 17 weeks, as also outlined in the Working Time Directive. 

Employers can ask their staff to take on additional shifts, even if this would take them over the threshold for minimum breaks or maximum working hours - but the employer cannot make or insist the employee works additional hours. Instead, it must be a voluntary decision by the employee to work more hours than the specified 48-hour week, which they can do by opting out of the 48-hour week. 


We hope that this article has given you some insight if you’re an employer wondering 'what is the minimum time between shifts I have to give staff.' As an employer, you must ensure workers have enough rest between shifts and over a working week to ensure compliance with the Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) directive, and to support good health and wellbeing practice for your staff.  

To recap; 

  • A minimum of 11 hours between shifts applies for adult workers (aged 18 and over)
  • A minimum of 12 hours between shifts applies for 16 and 17 year old workers 
  • Workers on zero-hours contracts are entitled to the same rest periods as contracted employees 
  • Workers are entitled to at least 90 hours of rest per week, with breaks on top of this. 
  • If minimum rest periods can’t be taken, then compensatory rest must be provided as soon as possible after the missed rest. 
  • Certain industries and people are exceptions to the general rules above including sole traders and directors who set their own working hours, shift workers, transport workers, emergency services, military and further examples outlined above.

Need Support? 

Neathouse Partners can assist employers with all aspects of employment and HR law including providing advice and support to aid your understanding, and ensure that you meet your employer obligations surrounding minimum time between shifts, and daily and weekly rest periods and more.   

Contact our expert team today for an informal chat about your needs. 

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