03 January 2017

Hungarian Labour Law confers on employees the right for free time, even during working hours. Even if the employer is not obliged to give a “smoke-break”, special regime applies to employees working in front of computers, as well as to employees with special needs like diabetes, pregnancy, etc. We summarise the key-points of this topic in this article.

Basic concepts

At first, we have to clarify some base points. Free time is not a legal category, but a word used in everyday life. The widest category of free time is the rest period. Each period when the employee has the right not to work based on law is considered to be rest period. It is important that this period is not the part of the working time.

There are the following types of rest periods in the Labour Code

  • break-time: a pause inserted into the daily working time. It is defined in minutes. Its aim is to help refreshing during work.
  • daily rest period: a rest period provided after the conclusion of daily work and before the beginning of the next day’s work. It is defined in hours.
  • weekly rest day or weekly rest period: this case rest period means whole days.
  • vacation: apart from the other above mentioned opportunities, vacation is an irregular rest period where employee has more influence when to take.

From the above mentioned, we present the break-time in details, since it concerns the working hours, spent at workplace.


According to Labour Code, employee shall be entitled to break time if the scheduled daily working time or the duration of overtime work performed exceeds six (6) hours. The length of the break-time is twenty (20) minutes of break-time shall be provided. If working time exceeds nine (9) hours, and additional twenty-five (25) minutes of break-time shall be provided.


The agreement of the parties or the collective agreement may provide longer break-time, but it may not exceed sixty (60) minutes.

The Labour Code defines also the way how the break-time shall be provided. During the break-time work must be interrupted. The break-time shall be provided after not less than three and before not more than six hours of work. Doing so the break cannot be avoided by manipulating the beginning and the end of the working time.

This period is usually used for eating, so this phrase appears as „lunch break” in everyday usage. Of course break-time is not restricted to eating. Employers shall ensure the regeneration of the employee, so they can have a rest, and prepare for continuing the work.

It is important that working time shall not cover break-time, with the exception of stand-by jobs, so in most cases employee is not entitled to receive payment for that period. Parties or collective agreement may deviate from this.

Extraordinary needs

Of course it happens that the employee may interrupt work because of sanitary or medical reasons, for example taking medicine, drinking water, or just go to the lavatory. The Labour Code does not declare expressly, but the Fundamental Law provides that every employee shall have the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity.

From this provision it is clear that employees are entitled to do extraordinary actions necessary in relation with their health, safety and dignity even during working time, which period shall be paid unlike break-time.

„Smoke break”

There is no such legal concept as „smoke break” in Hungary. The law does not support the employee to spend his valuable working time with health destroying addiction, so employers does not have to give “smoke breaks” to smoking employees.

However, the break-time can be spent with any activity. Thus, if the employee keeps the legal provisions on the protection of non-smoking persons, and he has enough time left from his break-time, it is allowed to smoke.

Working with computer

To employees working in front of screens, special rules apply. The employer must organize their work so that the continuous work in front of the screen shall be interrupted each hour at least with ten (10) minutes’ break, and the total length of work a day spent in front of the computer shall not exceed six (6) hours.

In case it is not possible, the employer shall organize the work so that the work in front of the screen shall be interrupted regularly fitting the features of the work, and the work shall be replaced with other activities (for example: meeting, telephone conversation, etc.)

But even in such case the interruption of the work shall not be shorter than ten (10) minutes, and the work performed in front of the screen shall not exceed the 75 percent of the daily total working time.

This kind of break is considered to be the part of the working time, because it doesn’t mean that the employee shall not work, just to stand up from the screen.