The traditional lunch hour is becoming a thing of the past, as the majority of employers continue to work during what is meant to be a break from the working routine.

A new study revealed that 41% of employees do not get to take the full 60 minutes during their working day, whilst a further 59% of workers in the UK admit that they take even less than half an hour, despite not being paid for it.

In a survey of 2,000 workers, it was found that only one fifth of those in work took their full lunch hour, according to a new study by health and wellbeing provider Benenden.

One in four admit to eating at their desk five times a week and 40% of those surveyed blamed ‘too much work’ as the reason for them eating at their workstation.

The biggest culprits are the South East, with only 31% taking a full lunch break, and East Anglia, where just 28% of employees’ average lunch break is just 15 minutes or less for. In contrast, the most impressive area is Scotland, with 40% of employees taking their full lunch hour.

Helen Smith, business development director at Benenden said: “It’s widely recognised that workers need to ensure they take a break – whatever they are allowed - and get away from their desks. Not only from an eating lunch point of view and building up energy levels, but also to refresh the mind and have time to refocus on the afternoon ahead.

Unhealthy lunch habits

Despite a boom in healthy living, there are only a small minority of workers (7%) who choose to exercise in their down-time. A total of 56% respondents stated that work gets in the way of keeping active, with more than 73% of people saying that their employer doesn’t actively encourage it.

Opting for convenience over health, time-pressed staff admit to spending an average of £5 a day on lunch, choosing to eat sandwiches (59%), bring food from home (54%), or go for much unhealthier options such as burgers and fast food (8%), sweets (19%), pasties (7%) and cakes (15%) .

When it comes to more hearty lunchtime options such as pasties (11%), burgers (12%) or pies (9%) twice as many men than women opted for this choice.

Ms Smith added that employers are responsible for their employee’s health and well being as well as the workers themselves. She said: “Workplaces vary in the amount of time given to employees for their lunch breaks and the traditional hour appears to be dying out.

“Employers should also ensure their workplace policies encourage a proper lunch break, whatever the length of time allowed.”