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Does a quick cigarette or coffee break give you a fresh look on things when you return to work? Even though you probably have the opportunity to take a breather, do you know how many breaks you are allowed? And how long they can last? And vice versa: is it okay to continue working during your lunch break to meet a looming deadline?
Does a quick cigarette or coffee break give you a fresh look on things when you return to work? Even though you probably have the opportunity to take a breather, do you know how many breaks you are allowed? And how long they can last? And vice versa: is it okay to continue working during your lunch break to meet a looming deadline? Discover all your rights and obligations here.
Is taking breaks mandatory?
The Belgian government protects the workaholics among us with a number of basic rules that are enshrined in the Labour Act.
- may be taken after six hours of uninterrupted work
- lasts at least 15 minutes
- is mandatory
And that’s all the legislator has to say about it.
A Royal Decree, the collective labour agreements for your sector or your employment regulations will also have laid lout specific provisions such as break duration and authorised intervals. How, how often and when you can take a break will therefore depend on your employer to a great extent.
Adapted legislation will apply in the case of some employee categories. For instance, employees of a cleaning company already get a break after four hours of work. As for workers under the age of 18, they are entitled to a 30-minute rest after four and a half hours of work.
Is taking breaks optional?
Taking a break when you feel like it is not a right. Even in jobs where you don’t clock in and out or your time is not counted. Your new employer will inform you of the specific break regulations when you start.
What about flexible working hours? In that case, chances are you can take (unpaid) breaks as long as you do the necessary hours and your work does not suffer. If you work according to fixed or sliding hours, again, taking breaks won’t be that simple. So, before you take a break, make sure you know the rules well.
On the other hand, employers usually set intervalsfor mandatory breaks. For example, a half-hour lunch break is mandatory in many companies. It’s also worth noting that these imposed break times are usually unpaid. The information on mandatory break times and whether they are paid for can be found in your sector’s collective labour agreement and work regulations.
Do you prefer to throw away your sandwiches and keep working through your unpaid lunch break? If you do, your employer will count it as a break anyway. In other words, you’ll miss a chance to rest and will have worked for free and for nothing.
Breaks at work: a varied landscape
The legislator does not say much about breaks at work. Employees are entitled to rest after six hours of work, but there are exceptions. The rules mainly depend on the sector and employer. Do you want to know when and how you can take a break? Start by reading your work regulations. Or better still: pay your HR manager a visit.
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