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I've worked at some places where they've had a mandatory one-hour lunch. So you have to work your required X hours a day, and also take a one-hour lunch. So your arrival-until-leave period covers X+1 hours.

Is this very common? I'm in the UK and work in IT.

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    In the UK 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. – Pepone Jul 15 '14 at 9:47
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    I just want to state, I HATE mandatory lunches. I know a lot of companies here in the USA require them luckily it has been years since I worked at one. I generally like to work through my lunch as once I am in the middle of something I don't like to let it go lol. – Tony Jul 15 '14 at 14:50
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    In the uk this would be the case in almost 100% of workplaces – Pepone Jan 12 '16 at 21:50
  • @Pepone It really isn't close to 100%. Particularly in IT. In 6 companies I've worked for, only one had a mandatory 1h lunch and X+1 hours working day – Jon Story Aug 11 '16 at 13:27
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    This is the law for every job on Brazil! – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Aug 11 '16 at 20:31
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The fairness or not of such a rule may not have much of a bearing, once workplace laws come in.

  1. In Switzerland, where I work, if I have an accident at work or on my way home, my workplace accident insurance will be voided if I did not take the required breaks. In this situation, I could sue my employer with a very good chance of success, claiming that I "could" not take the break because of the pressure at work. Employers very understandably do not like this, so my employer requires that I take my breaks.

  2. Here the owner of a medium-sized business explains the situation in California:

[W]e recently were forced to institute an HR policy in California that working through lunch is a firing offense. One warning, then you are gone. Why? California has a crazy law that allows employees to collect substantial ex post facto compensation if they claim they were denied a 10 minute break every four hours or a thirty minute unpaid lunch break after five. Suffice it to say we have spent years honestly trying to comply with this law. The 10-minute break portion is less of a compliance hurdle, but the lunch break portion has caused us no end of trouble. Theoretically, under the law, the employee has a choice - work through lunch paid, eating at the job post (e.g. in a gatehouse of a campground) or leave the job post for 30 minutes for an unpaid lunch break. As background, every one of our employees have always begged to have the paid lunch because they are from a poorer area and need the extra 30 minutes of pay.

Unfortunately, it does not matter what preferences the employee expressed on the job site. In the future, the employee can go to the labor department and claim he or she did not get their break, and even if they did not want it at the time, and never complained to the employer about not getting it, the employer always, always, always loses a he-said-she-said disagreement in a California Court or review board. Always. Sure, it takes someone utterly without honor to make this claim in Court, but there seems to be no shortage of those. So, we took a series of approaches to getting people on-paper, on-the-record as having asked to work through lunch. Unfortunately, one court case after another has demolished each safe harbor we thought we had.

A few weeks ago I was advised by a senior case-worker at the California Department of Labor that the only safe harbor left for employers is to FORCE employees to take an unpaid lunch. This means they clock in and back out, this means they have to leave the job site (because if a customer happens to ask them a question, then they are "working"), and this means we have to ruthlessly enforce it. Or we are liable for scads of penalties. So, we find ourselves at the bizarre crossroads of making working through lunch a firing offense, and employees who generally want to work an extra thirty minutes each day to earn more money are not allowed to do so.

  • Yeah, we have similar laws in Florida, as well as almost all companies that hire employees primarily under the 35K annually bracket having mandatory break policies. Once you get over the lower income brackets people tend to be more career focused and don't want to do anything that could potentially jeopardize future employability. (Even when such legal action is 100% justified) Not that middle to high income people don't make these suits, rather the frequency it happens is so much lower it's more effective to lose the suit than the admin overhead forcing lunches. – RualStorge Jul 14 '14 at 14:33
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    The question has been edited to (a) specify location and (b) remove the opinion-based parts. Please check to see if your answer needs any edits, thanks. (Unfortunately the question wasn't closed quickly enough to prevent answers to the original version. Sorry.) – Monica Cellio Jul 15 '14 at 13:09
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    While interesting, given the OP is in the UK, this doesn't actually provide any answer, just relates things that have happened elsewhere. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 11 '16 at 12:44
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As far as I know, it's very common in the western world (North America + Europe). It's also part of work legislation in most jurisdictions. Therefore it's part of the company's policy and you will usually find it written in your work contract as well.

The main reason behind this is to maintain the employee's mental health and optimum productivity. You just can not stay focused and "in the zone" for an entire work-day, you need a mental break that's longer than the usual 5 minutes.

Personally, I also find it to be a great social opportunity. Bonding with coworkers and having conversations during lunch comes much more naturally for me (and I think for most people).

  • Depending on the nature of the position most of the western world has laws saying "For every X hours you work, your employer is require to give you XX minutes of break" I believe generally speaking your employer can set when you take these breaks with a large number of restrictions, and special exclusions. (Essentially almost anything that requires you to take breaks at specific times, and biological necessities are typically protected, as always check your local laws) – RualStorge Jul 14 '14 at 14:24
  • The question has been edited to (a) specify location and (b) remove the opinion-based parts. Please check to see if your answer needs any edits, thanks. (Unfortunately the question wasn't closed quickly enough to prevent answers to the original version. Sorry.) – Monica Cellio Jul 15 '14 at 13:09
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Yes this is common and yes there are legal reason in many jurisdictions why this is common. These laws came into effect as a workplace safety issue. And frankly it is bad for productivity (on a statistical basis) to work through lunch. Working without a long break will make you more tired and then you make more mistakes and take longer to do things. So it is not in a company's best interests to allow you to work through lunch.

Are they fair, of course they are fair as they apply to all. Are they what you personally may want, maybe not. That doesn't make it unfair.

  • The question has been edited to (a) specify location and (b) remove the opinion-based parts. Please check to see if your answer needs any edits, thanks. (Unfortunately the question wasn't closed quickly enough to prevent answers to the original version. Sorry.) – Monica Cellio Jul 15 '14 at 13:10
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Is it common?

Yes

Is it universal?

No

In short, it depends on the company

In the general "Working world" in the UK, it's certainly very common to have fixed hours. eg 8:30-5 or 9-5:30 with 1 hour mandatory lunch, for a 37.5 hour working week.

That's definitely not a standard rule, though - it's common, but there are a lot of companies where it's no longer standard practice: particularly within the IT field, which tends to be one of the more progressive when it comes to "flexible working".

Note that UK law states workers have a right to a 20 minute break if working for more than 6 hours in a day, but it does not state you have to exercise that right.

In a similar vein to "Are fixed working hours common practice in the UK?", the answer is quite simply "Yes it's common, no it's not universal". Out of 6 companies I've worked for, only 1 had truly fixed working hours. The others all allowed at least some degree of flex in your working hours, and none would have any objection to me foregoing lunch in order to work a shorter "Arrive->Leave" day, as long as it did not affect my productivity

  • 'Not that UK law states workers have a right to a 20 minute break' - typo? – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 11 '16 at 13:39
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This is common in the UK. One reason for this is that people who “work while having lunch” tend to not be working 100% and also they tend to spend other time making personal phone calls etc. Therefore an employer does not believe it if someone said they worked non stop for 8 hours!

A lot of UK employers assume at least a half hour lunch break even if it is not recorded on the time sheet. This is legal in the UK provided the employer did not stop the employee taking the break, the fact that the employee chose not to take the break, does not require the employer to pay for the time.

1

Yes this is common, as it keeps things simple around the laws on breaks.

Breaks need to happen as per here

Rest breaks at work

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

The break doesn’t have to be paid - it depends on their employment contract.

So given in the UK the typical workday is 9-5 and lunch is normally and hour between 12-2.

This means

  • Maximum possible morning work is 4 hrs (9-1)
  • Maximum possible afternoon work is 4 hrs (1-5)

So no chance of getting close to infringing the rules.

  • To be clear, the law requires you are able to take a lunch break. It doesn't require you to actually take it! As long as you're given the opportunity, the employer is in the clear – Jon Story Aug 11 '16 at 13:28
  • @JonStory- Yes I was aware, and in many compulsory break places people do choose to not take the full break/no break/eat lunch while working, but it is then down to the employee to choose not to take the break, they cannot be forced. So I am talking about the company policy, not what people do. – The Wandering Dev Manager Aug 11 '16 at 13:38

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