Staff breaks: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

You asked for information relating to staff members whose job predominately involves sitting at a desk and speaking to clients on phones (such as client support advisers).

Request for Information 1:

The length of breaks and the number of breaks they are entitled to in a shift lasting:

  1. 4 hours
  2. 6 hours
  3. 8 hours
  4. more hours

Please specify how long they are given for their daily lunch break, but also for other allocated breaks throughout the day.

Request for Information 2:

How long a staff member is given in time to go to the toilet when on shift. Please specify what a worker must do to signal that they are taking a break from receiving calls to go to the toilet and how long they are officially allowed to be away from their desk to do so.

Request for Information 3:

Please provide a copy of Social Security Scotland’s policy that lays out the rules around staff breaks and the amount of time they are permitted to have away from their desks during their working shift.

Request for Information 4:

The number of recorded instances of staff members being given warnings for taking toilet breaks that are considered too long. If possible, please provide a breakdown per year since 2018.

Request for Information 5:

 What is the trigger point for a staff member to be warned about the time they are taking for toilet breaks. In other words, what length of time away from their desk for a toilet break will cause a staff member to be cautioned or issued a warning.


We have interpreted your request to relate to Client Advisors. However, whilst Client Advisors do engage with clients via telephone, webchat or emails, they also carry out application processing and other administrative tasks as required.

Requests for Information 1 and 3: 

Attached to this response is the Scottish Government's Flexible Working Hours Policy. Paragraph 2.6 of this explains breaks during the work day, noting that if a member of staff works for more than 6 hours they must take a continuous break of not less than 30 minutes. It is also our policy that staff working on telephony have a 15 minute break in both the morning and afternoon, with further guidance that anyone working on display screen equipment take regular breaks.

Request for Information 2: 

This information is not held. No time limit is stipulated for toilet breaks and staff are not required to provide any signal that they are taking a break.

Request for Information 4: 

This information is not held. As of the date of your request, no warnings have been issued to any employee for toilet breaks since Social Security Scotland was launched in 2018.

Request for Information 5:

This information is not held. There is no such trigger point.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

Flexible Working Hours Policy


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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