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Break times – How much are your employees entitled to?

Every employee is entitled to break times if they work a certain number of hours. You can find out here what these are, what form the rest periods are to take and what penalty there is in case of a violation of the Working Time Act.

The break times depend on the duration of the work

If your employees work shifts of up to six hours, they are not legally entitled to an official break. This is also welcomed by some employees because, unlike working hours, break times are normally not paid. 
As soon as an employee works longer than six and up to nine hours, they must by law take a break of 30 minutes. If they work more than nine hours, the break time is 45 minutes.

Important: If an employee does not take a break and would like to be paid for their full attendance, you are not allowed to give it them. It is best to point out to your employees when they start to work for you that they must adhere to the break times.

You can split the break times at work

No employee has to take a 30 (or 45) minute break in one go. If it suits them better, it is also possible to split the time into two (or three) 15 minute breaks. The prerequisite for this is that the car wash team can organise this.

Not every interruption of work is a rest break

If your employee dashes into the bathroom or gets a cup of coffee, this is not considered break time: These short moments are part of the working time and are paid accordingly. This also applies if, for example, a defect stops your car wash and you have to see how to get it running again. Although you can tell your employees to take a break, their working time continues as far as pay is concerned. This is due to the fact that they can expect to resume work at any time. They cannot recuperate like this according to the jurisdiction.

Eight hours of work is enough

In principle, the need to take a 45-minute break should only occur very rarely. The Working Time Act limits the normal daily working time to eight hours. In exceptional circumstances, it may be extended to ten hours, but only if the average daily working time has not exceeded eight hours over six months.

Rest periods have to be taken into account

There was a night wash event at your car wash, and one of your employees stayed until midnight. He would like to start the next day at eight o'clock – but you should refuse this request. You are responsible for ensuring that your employees observe the prescribed rest periods. After each shift, the employee must have a rest period of at least 11 hours. Suggest that the employee in question comes in from 2 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on how you divide the shifts.

There are special rules for young people

Young people aged 15 and over are allowed to take on part-time jobs. The maximum working time for 15 to 18-year-olds is eight hours, as for adults, but they are entitled to more break time. For a total working time of four and a half to six hours, young people have to take a break of 30 minutes, for more than six hours even a break of 60 minutes (or two 30 minute breaks, depending on how they divide the break time).

Violation of break times is punishable by penalty

It is in your interest as an employer to ensure that you observe the break times. If someone complains that you are neglecting this point, you may have to pay a fine of up to 15,000 euros. Worse still, if you can be accused of intent. In this case, a custodial sentence may be added to the fine.

Summary: Break times are important

No one can concentrate forever – and those who are tired or not focused on their work will make mistakes. This is why the Working Time Act exists, and this is why penalties for non-compliance can be so severe. Fortunately, the rules are simple: For shifts of up to six hours, no break is required, but beyond that they are. And in shift work it is more pleasant anyway not to have to take over the late shift and the following early shift.

Find out in our posts how you can keep your car wash employees motivated and which team-building games can best bond your crew.