How long can you go without a break in a call centre?

Posted 28th Oct 2014
Our company says they can make us work up to 4 hours in front of the screen ... I thought it was 2 hours then you needed to have a break as using PC's etc ...
Community Updates
Workers over 18 are usually entitled to 3 types of rest break.

Rest breaks at work

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

Daily rest

Workers have the right to 11 hours rest between working days (eg if you finish work at 8pm, they shouldn’t start work again until 7am the next day).

Weekly rest

Workers have the right to:

an uninterrupted 24 hours without any work each week, or
48 hours each fortnight
A worker’s employment contract may say they’re entitled to more or different rights to breaks from work.

Work that puts health and safety at risk
An employer should give an employee enough breaks to make sure their health and safety isn’t at risk if that work is ‘monotonous’ (eg work on a production line).

Domestic workers in a private house (eg a cleaner or au pair) aren’t entitled to rest breaks for health and safety reasons.
For every hour at nhs 24 you get a 5 minute walkway
. Taking breaks
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
Exceptions and special circumstances
There are exemptions to the rights to rest breaks.

Some workers are entitled to compensatory rest breaks eg shift workers.

Also, young people and lorry and coach drivers have different rights to rest breaks.
Compensatory rest
Compensatory rest breaks
Workers may be entitled to ‘compensatory rest’ if they don’t have the right to specific rest breaks. Compensatory rest breaks are the same length of time as the break (or part of it) that they’ve missed.

A worker may be entitled to compensatory rest if:

they’re a shift worker and can’t take daily or weekly rest breaks between ending one shift and starting another
their workplace is a long way from their home (eg an oil rig)
they work in different places which are a reasonable distance from each other
they’re doing security and surveillance-based work
they’re working in an industry which is very busy at certain times of the year – like agriculture, retail, postal services or tourism
they need to work because there’s an exceptional event, an accident or a risk that an accident is about to happen
the job needs round-the-clock staffing so there aren’t interruptions to any services or production (eg hospital work)
they work in the rail industry on board trains or their job is linked to making sure trains run on time
their working day is split up (eg they’re a cleaner and work for part of the morning and the evening)
there is an agreement between management, trade unions or the workforce (a ‘collective’ or ‘workforce’ agreement) that has changed or removed rights to these rest breaks for a group of workers
The total rest entitlement for a week is 90 hours a week on average - 
this doesn’t include breaks at work, which are additional.
5. Young workers
Young workers (above school leaving age and under 18) are usually entitled to:

a 30 minute rest break if they work more than 4.5 hours (if possible this should be one continuous break)
daily rest of 12 hours
weekly rest of 48 hours
Exceptions for young workers
Young workers sometimes aren’t entitled to daily rest or rest breaks at work if their work has to be done because of an exceptional event (eg an accident). This is only where:

there isn’t a worker over 18 who can do the work
the work is temporary and must be done immediately
Compensatory rest
Young workers have the right to compensatory rest if they are not entitled to daily rest or rest breaks at work. This is the same amount of rest that they should have had. It can be taken just 
after any rest they’ve missed but it must be taken within the following 
3 weeks.
Safe computer use

Find useful information on health and safety issues relating to computers and find out what employers should do under health and safety regulations. You can also find out what help and equipment you may need to work safely with computers.
Using a computer safely

Many people use computers or visual display units (VDUs) as part of their job and most suffer no ill-effects. VDUs don't give out harmful levels of radiation and rarely cause skin complaints. If you use one and suffer ill-effects it may be because of the way you're using the computer.

For example, you might suffer from strain in the back of the hand due to excessive mouse-clicking, or stress or neckache if you use a VDU without a break for a long time. Problems like these can be avoided by a well-designed workstation and job.

Work with display screen equipment (PDF 725 KB)external link
Help with PDF files
Laptop Health (NHS Choices website)external link
Is your employer responsible?

Under health and safety regulations your employer should:

look at VDU workstations and assess and reduce any risks there might be
make sure that workstations meet safety requirements
plan work so there are breaks or changes in the type of work done
arrange for an eye test if you need one
provide health and safety training and information
These regulations also apply if you're working at home as an employee and using a VDU for a long period of time. To make sure your work environment is safe, think about the way you use your VDU. If you have concerns you should report them to your employer or employee safety representative if you have one.

Employers' health and safety responsibilities
Health and safety representatives
Your entitlement to breaks

There is no legal limit to how long you should work at a VDU, but under health and safety regulations you have the right to breaks from work using a VDU. These don't have to be rest breaks, just different types of work. Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) suggests that it's better to take shorter breaks more often at your workstation than longer breaks and less often; for example a 5-10 minute break after 50-60-minute continuous screen and/or keyboard use is likely to be better than a 15-minute break every two hours.

But if your job means spending long periods at a VDU, like a data inputer, then longer breaks from your workstation should be introduced. When working at a VDU make sure you can sit in a comfortable position, and keep a good posture. Your eyes should be level with the screen. Make sure you have enough space and don't sit in the same position for too long. If you're disabled, your employer's duty to make reasonable adjustments for you may mean that they will provide you with special computer equipment, or alter existing equipment, to suit your needs.
What a wall of text.

I remember when I worked part time in a call centre the bosses told us how great they were for giving us a break on a 4 hour shift, but at the time I was told that when working with computers you need a break every 2 and three quarter hours though this may of changed.
I would say make sure you change your eye focus regularly instead of short range at your screen/cubicle.
Learn a few stretching motions that you can do seated so you don't cramp up.
Take water etc if you are allowed to.

VDU guidelines generally say alternate your workload so you get regular short periods away from the screen, but that's not always possible.
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