Breaks, Rest Periods and Hours at Work

Weekly Working Hours

Under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the maximum average working week is 48 hours. The working week average is calculated in one of the following ways:

  • Over a four-month period (which applies to most employees)
  • Over a six- month period (for employees working in certain industries)
  • Over a 12-month period (where there is an agreement between the employees and their employer which has been approved by the Labour Court)

Please note that there are different weekly working hours for young people aged under 18 and these are determined by the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996.


Breaks and Rest Periods

The law establishes what breaks and rest periods an employee is entitled to; however, it also provides that some employees are exempt from these provisions in certain circumstances. In general, you are entitled to:

  • A 15-minute break when you have worked more than 4 ½ hours
  • A 30-minute break when you have worked more than 6 hours, which can include the first 15-minute break.

The break should not be at the end of the working day.


Does the employer have to pay for breaks?

No, the employer does not have to pay for breaks. Whether or not you receive payment will depend on your contract of employment.