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.

Therefore, in general, but with some exceptions:

  • An employee is entitled to an 11-hour* rest period in each 24-hour period during which they work for their employer
  • For every 4.5 hours worked, an employee is entitled to a 15-minute break
  • For every 6.5 hours worked an employee is entitled to a 30-minute break
  • In each 7-day period worked, an employee is entitled to a rest period of 24 consecutive hours

*The 11 hours starts at the time you finish work to the time you restart work, therefore anytime spent commuting is included in the 11-hour break.

Does the employer have to pay for breaks?

No, the employer does not have to pay for breaks.

How much notice does the employer have to give me when scheduling overtime?

The employer must give you at least 24 hours’ notice before scheduling overtime according to the Organisation of Working Time Act so that you can balance your work and personal life.

What if I’m being asked to stay late to cover until my colleague shows up?

Again, you are not obliged to do this as your employer must give you 24 hour notice of additional hours.