natural breakA term defined in the context of the European Working Time Directive as a minimum period of 30 minutes of continuous rest. A single one-hour break can’t count as two natural breaks; two 15-minute breaks can’t count as one natural break. Being bleeped during a natural break is acceptable unless the doctor has to act on the call, or unless the bleeping is repeated and therefore disruptive to the break. For the purposes of hours calculation, natural breaks count as work, not rest.
To explain the “approximately every 4 hours“ clause, the New Deal Implementation Support Group give an overriding principle that a doctor should not work for more than 5 hours without a break—for a shift lasting 5 hours, zero breaks is acceptable; a shift from 5.01 to 9 hours must have at least one break; a shift from 9.01 to 13 hours must have two breaks; a shift from 13.01 to 14 hours must have three breaks; a shift over 14 hours is automatically non-compliant. Both the total number of breaks per shift and the “never more than 5 hours continuous without a break“ rule must be met. For monitoring purposes, the natural break rules must be met on 75% of duty periods for the rota to be compliant.