How long do I have to eat at work?

40% of employees work a split shift according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene (INSHT). That is to say, they do a section of the day in the morning, until approximately two in the afternoon and resume the task at four until seven or even beyond. In between they have free time to eat at work.


The hours available between morning and afternoon are usually set by agreement or, in other cases, from the company itself. These hours are not counted as time worked so employees can dispose of it as they want. In those two hours in between, there are those who take the opportunity to do a little sport, go shopping or simply eat and go for a walk. It all depends on how long it takes you to have lunch.

Time to eat on split day

The split day with a long break in between is one of the peculiarities of the Spanish day. During the 1960s it was quite common to have two jobs. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. So that there was time to eat and rest a little before going to work for the second job at noon, two hours or more were used. This dynamic has not disappeared and there are still many companies that establish a split shift between the morning and afternoon hours with a long time in between, two hours many times, which excessively lengthens the end of the day.

The demand for more rational hours that allow reconciliation with personal life is shared by more and more people and has even been brought to parliament on several occasions promoted by the ARHOE (Association for the Rationalization of Spanish Hours). Making days more compatible with parenting, training or personal enjoyment involves shortening the time for lunch to go out before work.

I have the right to eat at work

But as long as things continue as they have been, going to the tupper with the food brought from home or going to a nearby restaurant for the daily menu will be the usual thing in the Spanish workweek. For this, the company will have to facilitate that employees can make the most of the time between morning and afternoon.

At this point, it should be noted that if between the morning and afternoon periods the staff cannot have two real hours for lunch due to the distance to a place where they can eat, the company will have to set up a dining room and what is necessary to to be able to do it (tables, chairs, microwaves, refrigerators, water …).

The company must prepare a space if requested by at least half the workers. Also if the number of workers exceeds fifty and, if there are fewer, the right will not be limited but the space that is dedicated will have to be proportional to the number of employees. This was established by law in the first half of the last century.

This law dates from 1938 but in 2011 the Supreme Court ratified it considering that the need to have a space to eat in the workplace is still in force.

Time to eat in the Workers’ Statute

The establishment of rest time during a day is set by occupational health criteria and is normally also detailed in the agreement. In this way, the minimum recommended in the Workers’ Statute is improved. In the ET, reference is made to the fact that in the days that exceed six continuous hours of work, a break of at least fifteen minutes will be enjoyed. There are people who take advantage of this time to have a snack and eat when they get home. It is usually in continuous days.

The maximum labor law also specifies that, in the case of those under eighteen years of age, this break must be extended to thirty minutes provided that the continuous working day exceeds four and a half hours.

Finally, it establishes that this time must be effective working time if the agreement so contemplates it.

Regarding split days, the Workers’ Statute does not specify whether there should be a specific time between one party or another. But the Supreme Court did guarantee it when it ratified the 1938 law, as we have already seen.

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