Whether you are employed in civil service or the private sector, navigating break times at work can be a source of contention.
Not everyone is in the same boat. There are those who prefer to work non-stop from morning to evening, even if it means eating their lunch in front of their screen. On the other end, there are those who embrace multiple breaks, indulging in coffee, cigarettes, mobile games, or even snippets of a film. And then, unfortunately, there are those who find their right to breaks compromised by employers seemingly indifferent to labour code regulations.
Our colleagues from RTL Infos have delved into the nuanced and somewhat ambiguous regulations that govern employees' break entitlements.
Basic rights and compulsory rest periods
In Luxembourg, standard working hours amount to eight hours per day and 40 hours per week for a full-time job. However, for employees working more than six hours a day, their schedule must include at least one paid or unpaid rest period.
"As the purpose of this rest is to protect the health and safety of the employee, the duration of the rest period must align with the nature of the activity carried out by the workers," states the Chamber of Employees.
In certain sectors where working conditions are particularly arduous, taking breaks can also reduce the risk of accidents. / © Fotolia
The specific rest time can be defined in the company's collective agreement, internal regulations, or the employment contract. Various systems of individual or multiple breaks can be implemented based on the nature of the work.
The nature of the job itself becomes the decisive factor. For instance, a bus driver will find it difficult to take a break in the middle of a shift compared to an office worker who enjoys greater flexibility. Consequently, the law refrains from rigidly defining break lengths, recognising the need for adaptability in addressing diverse job requirements.
One unpaid break per day
The concept of breaks, while generally beneficial, may not always align with the needs of every worker. A notable example is a restaurant employee working dual shifts — one during lunch and another in the evening — with an intervening break during the afternoon. For employees residing far from their workplace, this hiatus between activity periods can quickly eat up their available free time.
Once again, the length of these breaks and whether or not they are paid are generally determined by the employer. However, the law specifies that "if it is possible to provide for several rest periods, the working day may be interrupted by only one unpaid break to avoid employees having to work excessively long hours."
At the same time, the legal daily rest period must be respected: "During each 24-hour period, the employee shall benefit from a rest period of at least eleven consecutive hours."
Life at work isn't always easy, and the right to a break allows you to take a breather. / © Shutterstock
The law further prescribes the length of the weekly rest period, stating that "Employees must have an uninterrupted rest period of 44 hours. Sunday should preferably be included in this rest period. Failure to observe the 44-hour rest period entitles the employee to up to six additional leave days per year, as determined by the Inspectorate of Labour and Mines."
Bathroom breaks, meal breaks, breastfeeding breaks
There is no specific provision for bathroom breaks, likely because employers typically grant time for this basic need. In return, employees are expected not to exploit this grey area.
The organisation of meal breaks is typically within the employer's purview. The Labour Code briefly mentions that hours deemed regular meal times "are set at 7am to 9am, 12pm to 2pm, and 6pm to 8pm."
In Luxembourg, a unique break type exists for mothers — breastfeeding breaks. Upon returning from maternity leave, employers are obligated to grant a breastfeeding break to a nursing mother upon request.
The recognised benefits of breaks
Depending on your activity, an 8-hour working day can seem endless or pass like a flash. Regardless, it is advisable to take a break from professional duties from time to time. This practice yields numerous advantages:
- increasing productivity
- mitigating psycho-social risks like stress and fatigue, which, if unchecked, can escalate into psychological distress or burnout.
- socialising with colleagues (or getting away from them briefly if you can't stand them!)
- contributing to overall health by counteracting the adverse effects of physical inactivity and prolonged sitting. Stretching legs, clearing the mind, and engaging in light physical activity activate blood circulation, relax muscles, and oxygenate the body. This proactive approach reduces the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and sensory overload.
In short, breaks are far from being a waste of time; instead, they empower individuals to return to work with enhanced efficiency. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race!