Home » Guide to working life » Employment relationships » Working time » Breaks at work Last updated: 17.08.2023 It is important to take breaks during the working day In service sectors, the days are often busy and stressful, both physically and mentally. Breaks are therefore very important. Employment relationships Employment contracts Basics of employment relationships Termination of employment End of employment Cooperation and change negotiations Layoffs Terms of employment for young people Holiday and leave Sick leave Working time Reduction in working time Breaks at work Night work, shift work and periodic work Extra hours Overtime Wages and holiday bonus Even short periods of recovery help you feel better at work and be more energetic in your free time. You should also eat at some point during your shift. Your muscles and brain both need energy to work well. Everyone has the right to take breaks Employers must give all workers breaks. Breaks must be taken even on busy days when there are a lot of customers. The employer must organise the work so that workers can take breaks. For example, the shop must be closed if that is the only way the worker can take a break. The law (the Working Time Act) guarantees you a break for eating even when the collective agreements have no rules about breaks, or there is no collective agreement. Most collective agreements have rules about meal and coffee breaks. Read the collective agreement to see what the break rules are in your sector. Collective agreements In addition, there are specific rules on breaks for young people. Read more about terms of employment for under 18-year-olds Other breaks in addition to food and coffee breaks may also be needed. Here are answers to some questions about breaks. Ease the stress – remember to take micro-breaks! When the work is hard, you should take small breaks, for example to stretch. You can also take turns sitting and standing, or doing a different task for a while so that the stress from one task doesn’t get too heavy. Questions and answers Do I get a meal break (break for eating) in every shift? Check your sector’s collective agreement. Usually, you only get a meal break if your shift is more than six or seven hours long. How long is the meal break? Most of the collective agreements have rules about how long the meal break is. Read your sector’s collective agreement. Usually, the meal break is 30 minutes long. Is the meal break working time or my own time? If you can leave the workplace during the meal break, it is your own time, not working time. You will then not be paid for the meal break time. You don’t need to work during the meal break. If it has been agreed that you take the meal break as you work, it is counted as working time. The work must be organised so that you can take a break and eat. When do I get to take the break? The employer must not place the break at the beginning or the end of the day. The time of the break must be listed in the roster. Do I get a coffee break in every shift, and how long is the break? The collective agreements have rules about coffee breaks. You can usually take a coffee break if the shift is four hours long or longer. Check your sector’s collective agreement to see how many coffee breaks you can take, and how long must the shift be. Coffee breaks are counted as working time. Collective agreements do not say how long the coffee break is, because some workplaces need longer breaks than others. It must be agreed at the workplace how long the break is. Usually coffee breaks are 10–15 minutes long. The employer must make sure that the workers can take coffee breaks. Can I go to the bathroom at other times, or must I go during a coffee break? You have the right to go to the bathroom at other times too. You don’t have to wait until the coffee or meal break. What if the weather is hot and it makes the work hard? Working in a hot environment is harder than working in a normal temperature. When the weather outside is hot and the temperature is higher than +25 °C, the employer must make sure that the temperature at the workplace stays under +28 °C. If the temperature at the workplace is higher than 28 °C, you have the right to take more breaks. You should try to take the break in a cooler place. You also need to drink water. When the temperature is high, you should have a break of 10–15 minutes every hour: If the temperature is under 33 °C, you work for 50 minutes and take a break for 10 minutes. If the temperature is higher than 33 °C, you work for 45 minutes and take a break for 15 minutes. What if my supervisor doesn’t let me take a break? The employer must let you take the breaks that you have the right to take. Busy time or a lot of customers are not reasons to stop you from having a break. The employer must organise the work so that you can take the breaks. You can tell your employer that you have the right to take breaks. You can also help the employer to find ways to take the breaks so that the work still gets done. Tell your ideas to your supervisor. If there are still problems, talk to the occupational health and safety representative or shop steward. You can also get help from PAM’s employment advice helpline.