Break regulations in the labor law – how long may one work without breaks?

How long may one work at a stretch per day without a break??

Those who work hard must also be allowed to take a break. Although this core statement is absolutely understandable from a human point of view, there are not infrequently discrepancies between the employer and the employee in this respect. As in hardly any other area of labor law, however, certain views have become established among employees over time, which, however, lack any legal basis. The fact is, however, that the break regulation must be clearly regulated in the employment contract concluded between the employer and the employee. If there is no such express provision in the employment contract, the statutory provisions shall apply. However, since not every employee knows exactly how these legal provisions are defined, prior information is essential. In many companies, employers impose circumstances on their employees that contradict the legal regulations, i.e. exhaust this to the utmost.

How long is a continuous working time without a break allowed at all??

Areinten without breaks - What is allowed?

In many companies, especially in the manufacturing industry, employees work on a so-called piecework basis. The constant presence of the employees is necessary so that the producing machines do not stand still and the production comes to a standstill. 12-hour shifts are not uncommon for employees in this area, but there is a clear legal requirement for breaks even in these shift systems. The length of the break depends on the length of the working time and there are also legal regulations for the period of the break. However, an employer is allowed to deviate from these regulations, but this deviation must be agreed upon with the employee beforehand.

Employees are not allowed to work longer than 6 hours without a break. If the 6 hours work are completed, an employee is obligated to a break of 30 minutes. If the employer deviates from this, the break time is extended accordingly. After 9 hours of work, the employee is entitled to a break of 45 minutes. Although the lunch break in Germany is usually scheduled between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., it is still determined by the employer.

No lunch break, but an early closing time?

The statement that an employee – if he renounces his lunch break – can go earlier into the end of work belongs to just those statements which are widespread. What at first glance appears to be not so bad for the employee is, however, not at all permissible under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, or ArbZG for short. The ArbZG regulates the maximum permissible working hours and non-working hours, as well as public holidays and Sunday rest, with a view to protecting employees and taking health and safety into account. Of course, this law also recognizes exceptional situations. These exceptional situations apply to special cases and must not become the rule.

Based on § 4 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, a break of half an hour must be taken after six hours of work, and 45 minutes after nine hours. However, this break does not necessarily have to be taken in one piece, as it is also legally permissible to break it up into parts. Important is also the agreement between the employer and the employee, which results from the collective agreement or alternatively from the company agreements. The § 7 ArbZG knows for example special forms of the break regulation in enterprises with shift models.

May the boss refuse the break or require work during the break?

Working without breaks

There are always bosses and superiors who would like to have the work transferred to the employee completed immediately. Breaks are often a nuisance here, as the efficiency of an employee can be increased – at least from the employer’s point of view – if the employee does not take a break. However, this is not legally permissible. An employer is obliged on the basis of the ArbZG to allow his employee to take a break. However, the extent of the break can be regulated independently by the boss, provided that the employer does not fall below the legal minimum requirements. Longer breaks are permitted by law, even if hardly any employer actually takes them. In shift work, the break time between two shifts is also of particular importance. This break time is defined as a rest period and may not be less than 11 hours after the end of the shift until the start of the next shift according to § 5 ArbZG. This regulation poses great challenges, especially for shift operations with a small workforce. There are, however, special regulations in this respect, which are also used by many companies in certain industries.

The special rules

Certain industries or occupational groups are exempt from the minimum rest break between two shifts. Examples of this are industrial companies or hospitals and the care sector. Employees in managerial positions or chief physicians are also exempt from this regulation, as there is a separate legal regulation for these occupational groups with § 18 ArbZG. Also in the public service, for example in the fire department or the police force or in the public service. in the correctional system, other regulations can be applied as a rest period between two duty shifts.

Drivers in passenger or freight transport are also an exception. Rest and driving times may not exceed a maximum of 9 hours within a 24-hour period. In this case, however, the actual time spent by the employee behind the wheel applies to his or her actual driving time. For this occupational group there is also a different maximum working time, as after a time of 4.5 hours a minimum time of 45 minutes must be taken as a break.

Young people also fall within the scope of the special regulations. However, these have their basis in the Youth Employment Protection Act. On the basis of this law, the weekly working time of a young person may not exceed 40 hours, with the week running from Monday to Friday. Even for young people, a minimum break time must be taken after a period of 4.5 hours. This break is 15 minutes. However, if the young person works 4.5 to 6 hours a day, he or she is entitled to a break of at least 30 minutes. If the daily working time exceeds 6 hours, the employee is entitled to a break of 60 minutes.

If there is a disagreement between you and your boss about what kind of break you are entitled to, a lawyer’s advice can shed light on the matter. Some superiors like to try to put the employee under pressure. We are very happy to be at your disposal in such cases and to assist you in claiming your right on the basis of the law.

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