Breaks and break regulations in the workplace

Pausenregelung am Arbeitsplatz

It is undisputed that breaks are a valuable and necessary asset for employees. Legal changes in the past have revised and adapted break regulations. Nevertheless, there are pitfalls that affect some employees. Here, the Nothwind HR team provides you with a compact overview of break regulations and gives an example of a case in which break regulations have caused dissatisfaction.

The Working Hours Act and breaks

Over the past three decades, our current Working Hours Act (ArbZG for short) has experienced a great deal of confusion. In 1994, the ArbZG was to be adapted to the Working Time Directive, which stipulates certain minimum protection requirements for employees. These include, for example, the maximum working time of 48 hours per week and certain regulations on breaks. This adjustment failed and was tackled again in 2004.

To cut a long story short: The latest version of the ArbZG has been in force since 1 January 2004 and the break regulations are specified in § 4.

break regulations on work

Here is an overview of the regulations and breaks that employees must take according to the law:

  • no break is required for less than six hours of work per day
  • if the working day is between six and nine hours, a break of at least 30 minutes is mandatory
  • if the working time per day is over nine hours, the break must be at least 45 minutes

It is worth noting that these are minimum requirements. If the employer provides for longer break times due to the operating schedule, this is permitted.

Breaks may also be split up, but must then be at least 15 minutes at a time. Going to the toilet, for example, does not count as a break. An employer can stipulate when employees should take their break, provided that the break regulations in accordance with the ArbZG or collective agreements are adhered to.

Fuel for fire due to break regulations

In some cases, the legally prescribed break regulations cause displeasure among employees. For example, if an employee wants to finish work early and skip the break as compensation, this is not permitted.

Part-time employees who work six hours a day are even more seriously affected. If these working hours are exceeded by even one minute, the law stipulates that a break of 30 minutes is deducted. As breaks are not considered work and are therefore not remunerated, this is understandably a nuisance for these employees. It also reduces their motivation to complete important work or help out colleagues.

break regulations

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about break regulations or need help with payroll accounting!