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Breaking the Bank: The Real Cost of Breaks at Work

If you’re an employer, you’ll keep a close eye on your finances — but just how much are staff breaks…

Breaking the Bank: The Real Cost of Breaks at Work

5th June 2018


Breaking the Bank: The Real Cost of Breaks at Work

If you’re an employer, you’ll keep a close eye on your finances — but just how much are staff breaks costing you? Paper coffee cup and disposable catering specialist, Inn Supplies, breaks down the costs:

The regulations

Before we begin talking budgets, let’s discuss how many breaks your employees are entitled to. If your employees work for longer than six hours in a day, they are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes.

Young workers over 16 and under 18, are entitled to a 30-minute rest break if they work longer than 4.5 hours. As an employer, you only have to offer paid rest breaks if it is stipulated within your employees’ contracts.

Workers who smoke aren’t legally entitled to cigarette breaks, and as such they should only smoke during their designated break period. However, many employers are flexible around this, recognising the impact this type of restriction could have on staff morale. As such, some employers have outlined rules around cigarette breaks in their employee contracts.

The reality

Of course, the typical working day usually includes more breaks than those outlined by the government. For example, tea and toilet breaks will all take your staff away from their responsibilities — but just how much does it cost you? We break it down:

Tea breaks

Britain is a nation of tea lovers. On average, Brits drink 165 million cups of tea and 70 million cups of coffee every single day — but how does our love of hot drinks hinder our worktime productivity?

According to research from, making hot drinks was named as the fourth biggest workplace distraction, with 31% of 1,989 UK office workers citing it when asked what prevents them from working productively. On average, making hot drinks takes 17 minutes per day.

Over the course of a year, we’ll spend approximately 68 hours per year brewing up at work. Assuming an average wage of £25,500, employers are paying each employee £897 per year to make hot drinks! This staggering figure is made worse when you consider that those who earn higher wages will cost your business more every time they make a cuppa.

This only considers lost time though — many employers also foot the bill for the tea, coffee, milk and sugar, costing them even more over the course of the year. Of course, this cost varies by a number of factors, including location and company size.

Research by Epiphany has found that there’s a whopping 21p difference between making a brew in London (the most expensive at 69p) and brewing up in Hull (the cheapest at 48p). However, the Daily Mail reported in 2017 that the UK Tea and Infusions Association predicts between a 10% and 15% increase in the cost of tea, resulting from Brexit and increased pressure on growers.

Based on the above figures, a 10% increase in costs could push the average cost of a cup of tea in Hull to 53p and 76p in London — leading to increased expense for employers who foot the bill.

The average employee drinks four hot drinks per day at work. Based on the above costs, an employee’s hot drink habit costs employers £2.12 per day in Hull and £3.04 per day in London. Based on a headcount of 50, Hull businesses could be shelling out £106 per day on hot drink supplies alone, while the figure increases to £152 for businesses of the same size in London.

Clearly, something employees have come to expect as standard can have a huge financial impact on a business.


Over the course of the working day, your employees will likely enjoy a few snacks. Usually, employees will cover the cost of these snacks themselves, but how much are they costing you in time while you work?

The seventh most common workplace distraction is responsible for an average productivity dip that lasts eight minutes per day. While your employees spend these eight minutes snacking, the cost to you is £1.76 per employee, based on the average UK salary. Over the course of a year, this amounts to £422 per employee. For a business with a headcount of 50, the total yearly cost of workplace snacking is £21,120!

While the time spent on snacks may seem insignificant, the associated cost is staggering.

Smoking breaks

How much impact do smokers have on your business costs? According to research for the British Heart Foundation, each full-time member of staff who smokes at work cost their employer £1,815 a year — based on four cigarette breaks per day, each lasting 10 minutes. In total, smokers are costing British businesses a huge £8.4 billion!

Considering one in five British workers smoke, a 50-strong business could have around 10 smokers — costing £18,150 in lost time annually.

However, it’s not just their cigarette breaks that you’re forking-out for; smokers also take more sick leave than non-smokers. Although it works out at just 70% of an extra day’s sick leave each year, it adds roughly another £50 per smoker per year to your expenses.

Toilet breaks

Going to the loo is natural. Most people will visit the toilet between six and seven times a day. If we assume that three of these visits occur at work, each lasting four minutes each, an employee with an annual salary of £25,500 will cost you 66p per toilet trip — or £2.64 per day. Over the course of the year, this works out at £633.60 — for just one employee!*

Of course, this figure doesn’t consider the cost of toilet roll, soap and other bathroom essentials and maintenance. Add in these items and the cost rockets even further.


*This was calculated using Plumbworld’s toilet calculator.


Categories: Advice, Articles

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