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Breaks: important for performance

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A working day can be quite exhausting - especially when it drags on due to unpredictable events. It is important that Rest breaks should be inserted to maintain concentration and performance. To protect the employee, the Working Hours Act (ArbZG) regulates not only working hours, but also the time during which work is not permitted. Here you can find out what you need to know about maximum working hours, breaks and breaks ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Rest breaks Definition: What is meant by a rest break?

A break is the time when work is idle. How long it is down depends on how many hours a day are worked in total and how long you have already worked.

Paragraph 4 of the Working Hours Act regulates:

The work is to be interrupted by breaks of at least 30 minutes fixed in advance for working hours of more than six to nine hours and 45 minutes for working hours of more than nine hours in total. The breaks according to sentence 1 can be divided into periods of at least 15 minutes each. Employees may not be employed for more than six consecutive hours without a break.

The rest breaks regulated here represent the minimum amount, similar to the statutory vacation entitlement. This means that your employer is entitled within the framework of the right of management to longer breaks to be prescribed if he deems it appropriate. However, these must not be disproportionately long and require approval if a works council exists.


An office management clerk has working hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and according to the employment contract, she is entitled to a 60-minute break.

How the employee divides her break is up to her. A breakfast break can therefore be quite short and the lunch break longer. Theoretically, the employee can skip her completely and take a one-hour lunch break at 2 p.m.

The aim of rest breaks is to improve the work and productivity of the employees spread over the working day which is why hardly any employer will agree if their employee works 8 hours and wants to end work an hour earlier.

This would also make himself liable to prosecution, since he was the Compliance with rest breaks has to monitor.

In practice, there are usually specific canteen opening times or times set in advance for the breaks, because the employer's right to direct does not affect the breaks themselves, but they are allowed to Accurate location for example, breakfast breaks from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch breaks from 12 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A break is not always a break

Rest breaks are not to be confused with rest periods: this is also regulated in the ArbZG. It concerns them Time after completion the daily working hours - i.e. the area of ​​the day that is available to you as an employee for leisure and sleep.

Here, employees must have at least eleven hours of uninterrupted rest, with one exception: of all things, in social professions, in gastronomy and agriculture, in short: wherever they are mostly physical work is exhausting anyway, the rest period can be shortened by one hour.

This exception rule also applies to transport companies and radio. Compensation is a prerequisite through a 12-hour rest period within four weeks.

On-call duty and so-called set-up times, i.e. times that are used to prepare for work, also count as working time and therefore not as breaks. This includes, for example, moving in the hospital or handover. It looks a little more complicated with on-call duty:

Up to now, it was only counted as working hours when people actually worked. A current judgment (PDF) of the European Court of Justice has decided otherwise: Accordingly, working hours are when an employee has to be at work within a short period of time.

Are rest breaks paid or unpaid?

The law regulates clearly: breaks do not count as working hours, therefore they do not have to be remunerated become. The only exception: For employees in underground mining, the breaks count as working time (Section 2 ArbZG) and are thus remunerated.

However, this does not mean that it is not possible in principle for all employees to remunerate the breaks: In some companies, older employment contracts or collective agreements regulate one Remuneration for breaks. The situation is different with breaks that officially do not count as rest breaks, for example:

  • Break in operation

    If there is an unscheduled interruption of work as a result of technical malfunctions, the employees take a break. Since the employees are basically available, this involuntary break is counted as working time. This work interruption is therefore not considered a break and must be paid for.

  • Short break

    Particularly strenuous work requires work interruptions of around five minutes as part of occupational safety. This includes activities with extremely physically strenuous work such as shift work, assembly line work or rework, or work in which the employer is particularly exposed to noise and vibrations. The Protection Ordinance regulates sufficient times without noise exposure (Section 7 LärmVibrationsArbSchV). All of these activities, as well as longer screen work that triggers tension, allow short-term rest breaks, which are also paid for.

The case is different if an employee cannot take the legally prescribed rest breaks due to increased workload: he provides with knowledge of the employer corresponding work performance, he violates the Working Hours Act.

That can be as Administrative offense or criminal offense get ranked. In any case, this work is to be remunerated.

Special legal regulations for protection

Certain groups of employees are subject to special occupational safety, which is why different working hours and thus rest breaks apply to them. This includes:

  • Minors

    Young people under the age of 18 are allowed to work a maximum of 40 hours a week. Usually they are only allowed to be employed Mondays to Fridays, exceptions apply to young workers in the bakery, hotel, catering, agriculture or care sectors. If there is compensation on other days, the daily working time may be 8.5 hours. The rest breaks are provided for 30 minutes after a working time of 4.5 hours. From six hours they are entitled to 60 minutes. If an employer does not grant breaks, this administrative offense can be punished with up to 15,000 euros.

  • Pregnant and nursing mothers

    In general, there is no increased entitlement to rest breaks for pregnant women or nursing mothers. However, the employer must grant the expectant mother a leave of absence for examination appointments that can only be carried out during working hours. If not already available, pregnant and breastfeeding women have the right to a seat for a short rest. According to Section 2 of the Maternity Protection Act, breastfeeding mothers are to be granted a so-called breastfeeding break during working hours, which is not counted towards the breaks. You are to be given half an hour twice a day or an hour once a day, and even longer if you work more than eight hours.

Maintain health and productivity

Why are breaks so important? In fact, there has been a fair amount of human exploitation in the past. The Working Hours Act is a modern achievement. In the past century, workers were expected to work, and not only against any scientific knowledge speak, but shake your head from a human point of view.

Would you like an example? At the beginning of the 20th century were 12-14 hour days No rarity. Those who became nurses at the time did so out of vocation. There were no collective agreements, the pay was poor and they went straight to a nurses' home for board and lodging.

The minimal free time was determined by others, clothing (due to tight corsets) does not allow unreasonable demands and marriage - there were certainly no breaks in these working conditions. Fortunately, those times are long gone in this country.

Because employers have long known that their employees can work faster and better if they have enough rest, but that they are above all more satisfied. And satisfaction is a crucial motivator in the job.

What rest breaks do

Breaks give you the opportunity to stretch your limbs and get up, maybe even go for a walk and eat something healthy, instead of just eating something while sitting in front of the computer. Some one maybe thinksthat rest breaks are a waste of time, because there is no work during this time.

But the opposite is true. The non-stop pounding contributes to burnout at best, or even worse. The Japanese have a name for it: Karoshi. That's what he calls himself Death from overwork. No rest breaks, no rest periods - or only inadequate - that regularly leads to disaster, even for young people.

Conversely, the positive effects of rest breaks are:

  • Greater concentration

    Ergonomists come to the conclusion: After around 70 to 80 minutes of work, the body needs a rest, the brain switches off automatically, so to speak. Concentration decreases, people stare at the screen without being able to process the information. A short break after just an hour of work can work wonders. You will then work much more focused again.

  • Better mood

    The walk to the tea kitchen can really inspire you, after all, you can quickly have a little chat with colleagues here. Walks are ideal for longer breaks - when it is not pouring down, nature almost automatically raises your mood. And the recovery value has been proven to be greater than if you just stuck in the chair.

  • Better ideas

    One or the other may tend to bite into problems sometimes: Working on the same problem for three hours and still no solution ... Rest breaks are often the solution. Anyone who gets up from the chair, moves around, distracts their thoughts, receives new input and can then tackle the task with renewed vigor.

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