My employer has recently said that I MUST take lunch, at 30 minutes minimum. Is there anything I can do to fight this without losing my job?

They cite "burnout" as the reason. I smoke (please avoid the hate comments), and I have 10 minute breaks three times a day for a total of 30 minutes unpaid already, does their argument still stand?

I've been working as a programmer for six years now, and I've been a hobbyist for well over 10 years. I "work" constantly, I work on home projects as I do professional projects, I spend sometimes 14 hours a day programming for weeks on end. This has been my "natural state" for that entire time. I do not "burnout". Indeed, I've been given pay rises on a frequent basis based on performance.

I feel the extra time I would have to give to the company is totally unjust and doesn't take into account the kind of worker I am.

The law says they can basically do what they want to me, if they enforced it, I'm effectively working through lunch because I don't want to be in the place the work place is, so it's not "free time" then is it. I'm still at their disposal. Indeed, I'm pretty much forced to stay in the same chair because there's nothing else to do.

Is there any action I can take where I assert I don't need a lunch break? AND be able to do that without offending the HR department?

EDIT: I'm not looking to get into an argument about "You should just take the break ffs", I want a real suggestion of how I can handle this situation to achieve the result I'm after.

EDIT 2: I understand that people with my "work through lunch" ethic are not the norm. If I was really to pursue this, it could in fact damage the other members of my team by highlighting that they could also skip lunch, which for them could be very detrimental if they were to choose to do so. For the purposes of this question only, I'm going to take the selfish route and insist I want the time back.

EDIT 3: I'd like to try and explain why I feel so strongly about this measly 30minutes a day. I'm awake for 16 hours a day and I value every second. I believe I'm a slave and have done for years, work is a means to survive, not a means to feel fulfilled. You're working for other people's causes, which may even directly against your own personal beliefs. My own time is the only place I can be myself, and I feel like I'm having my life taken from me while I sit there and watch it happen. I know this won't chime with a lot of you, but this is what I believe. Every second they "expect" from me feels like they've taken a part of my soul, not to mention if they say "Oh, and we're not going to compensate you for this portion of your time, either" it's going to really make me want to fight it. I'm sure in ten or more years time when I've got the wisdom to start my own business I'll see this massively differently, but right now, I want to give the time I signed up for, 37.5 hours a week. No more!

  • I'd be more concerned about the workplace side of things here rather than legal one. It is unlikely that you're being pressed to take the break because of some regulations (e.g. the employer aiming to avoid fines because its employees do not take breaks). It is more likely that you're just being picked on.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 7:53
  • @Greendrake An interesting take on the situation. At the moment the lunch is optional and they're considering to change it. Others in the office insist on taking their lunch, and that you don't talk to them while they're on it. Perhaps this is a culture thing after all. What I'm really after is a way to say No to them...
    – anon
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:00
  • 1
    There are serious legal issues about allowing employees to not take breaks when they are entitled, to the extent that they are a health and safety issue, and may suggest coercion to skirt the law by the employer. To think of it as picking on one person, when this is surely an employer-wide policy, is non sequitur.
    – user4657
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:08
  • @Nij I'm sat at a desk all day, not driving machinary. I also take 30minutes break already, if you read the question.
    – anon
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:09
  • 1
    @Nij but driving forklifts with inadequate rest endangers more people and property than does sitting at a desk all day.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


Long story short, your employer can tell you when and how to take breaks, as long as they meet very simple conditions that don't help you.

From the government's information website,

Workers have the right to one uninterrupted 20 minute rest break during their working day, if they work more than 6 hours a day. This could be a tea or lunch break.

The break doesn’t have to be paid - it depends on their employment contract.

Employers can say when employees take rest breaks during work time as long as:

  • the break is taken in one go somewhere in the middle of the day (not at the beginning or end)

  • workers are allowed to spend it away from their desk or workstation (ie away from where they actually work)

It doesn’t count as a rest break if an employer says an employee should go back to work before their break is finished.

Unless a worker’s employment contract says so, they don’t have the right to:

  • take smoking breaks

  • get paid for rest breaks

  • 3
    I don't see there where it says "I must take the break". Have I misunderstood? I actually read that website before coming here... For example "Employers can say when employees take rest" says to me that IF I take the break, THEN they can tell me when.
    – anon
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 6:35
  • 3
    What do you mean, "get away with"? It is the best interest of the employee, the employer, and the government to have workers getting decent breaks. Employers can whether by policy or by contract require you to do a huge number of things, including look after your well-being even when you don't want to.
    – user4657
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 7:19
  • 4
    You evidently don't understand the point of a break then, and you are exactly the type of employee that such a requirement is put in place to manage.
    – user4657
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:04
  • 1
    @Nij I do want to say thank you for spending the time on this question, even though it wasn't the response I was expecting. Sorry for getting heated.
    – anon
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 8:20
  • 4
    @anon of course, if you disagree with your employer about the most efficient working conditions for you, and cannot convince them otherwise, you can also find another employer, though that's more of a The Workplace answer than a Law one.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 16:39

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