Bigger Than A Piggy-Bank: How Much Breaks At Work Actually Cost


Breaks at work are mandatory here in the UK, however people often take extra tea, smoke and toilet breaks – but at what extra cost to your business? In this article we look at how all these additional breaks can affect your profits – but enhance employee morale

Bigger Than A Piggy-Bank: How Much Breaks At Work Actually Cost
Share This:

All entrepreneurs know the 2 key things to consider when starting up a business, costs and cash flow. As employee rights become more and more relevant and under the spotlight, breaks at work are becoming increasingly important (and expensive!) to employers, so just how much are breaks actually costing employers? Disposable catering specialist Inn Supplies, and Paper cup, answer this question.

The regulations

Before we take a closer look at the facts and figures, let’s look at how many breaks your employees are entitled to on a daily basis. If your employees are working for over 6 hours per day then that means they’re entitled to a break of 20 minutes uninterrupted. Employees that smoke are entitled to cigarette breaks too.

Members of the workforce that are aged between 16-18 years old are entitled to a 30-min break if they work for over 4 and a half hours.


Employers need only offer paid breaks to staff if it’s stipulated within the employees’ contracts.

The reality

Obviously stipulated breaks outlined by the government aren’t the only breaks people take on a daily basis. For example coffee breaks along with toilet breaks can also hit your business in the pocket. But just exactly how much do break cost you?

How Video Production Can Increase Corporate Productivity
Getting new employees up to speed can be a bit of a difficult process that not only costs you time but also money. You can use someone to talk and walk them through the process but this will take someone out of their own workflow and cause additional problems. In...

Tea breaks

We absolutely love Tea here in Britain. At work we’re spending just over 24 minutes every single day, brewing up. That works out at just under 189 days over the course of the average person’s working life. What does this mean to a business I hear you say? Well in terms of lost time alone, this equated to £400 per employee per year! (Based on an average wage of £26,000) – however those on higher wages will cost you even more!

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).

Almost 50% of workers drink four or more cups a day, while 33% drink between one and three and just 20% don’t drink any. Using the above costs and percentages, a business in Hull with 50 employees can expect to fork out £64.32 a day on tea and coffee supplies.* In London, this figure is even higher at £92.46 per day.

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.

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 £26,500 will cost you 92p per toilet trip. Over the course of the year, this works out at £662.50 — for just one employee!**

Do Dress Codes Make Workers More Productive?
The ultimate business attire continues to be marketed as the classic suit-and-tie, yet today, many companies are questioning the extent to which classic looks still apply in offices. The new millennium is an age of mobility, remote working, and a quest for meaning on the part of employees. Form is giving...

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.


*Worked out on the basis that 25 employees (50%) will drink four cups a day and 17 employees (33%) will drink two cups a day. Two was selected as the median value from the range. These figures were then multiplied with the cost per cup to generate the final value.


**This was calculated using Plumbworld’s toilet calculator.

Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on these links you will not be charged any extra for purchasing goods and services from our preferred partners however may receive financial compensation which contributes to the running of the site. For more information please read our Advertising & Affiliate Disclosure Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *