Rest and Lunch Break

In most cases, when a worker is "on the clock" (meaning they have to be present and ready to perform their duties when necessary), they are considered to be working. For instance, a caregiver who has to monitor a sick patient is on the clock and should receive payment for the entire duration of their shift. As per the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employee who reads, knits, or solves a puzzle while waiting for tasks is still considered to be working during the idle time. In such instances, the employee is "waiting to be engaged" and should be compensated for that duration.

Meaning of Break

A pause during work (or work-pause) refers to a specific time period within a work shift where a worker is permitted to take a break from their duties. These breaks, which may include meal breaks, tea breaks, coffee breaks, or lunch breaks, typically last anywhere from ten minutes to one hour. The primary objective of these breaks is to provide the worker with a regularly scheduled period to eat during the workday.

While lunch is the most common mealtime for those working during the day, it may differ for individuals with varying work schedules. These breaks are intended to allow the worker to recharge their energy. It is not uncommon for these breaks to be unpaid, and for the overall workday to be longer than the hours paid to allow for this period.

Lunch Break

Staff members are eligible for a continuous and unoccupied meal break lasting at least 30 minutes if their work shift goes beyond five straight hours. If feasible, these meal breaks should be scheduled to occur at least one hour after the beginning of the shift and one hour before the end of the shift. To be considered non-work, uncompensated time, employees must be entirely free of all job responsibilities and allowed to engage in personal activities during this period.

In cases where an uninterrupted meal break is not feasible due to business operations or other factors, employees should be allowed to consume an on-duty meal while carrying out their duties. Workers must be allowed to fully consume a meal of their choosing while on the job and receive full compensation for the on-duty meal break without losing any time or pay.

Presumptions for Meals

The justifiable expense or equitable market price of food given to the worker, can be utilized as a component of the lowest hourly pay. The employer cannot incorporate any earnings in the justifiable expense or equitable market price of such provided meals. The worker's agreement to partake in a meal should be voluntary and not forced.

Rest Breaks

Normally, intervals of respite endure for approximately five to 20 minutes. Moreover, take into consideration the rest breaks while computing the overall working hours of the staff, provided that you offer them.

Remember that you might not have to consider unapproved prolongations of sanctioned work breaks as hours worked.

If you have clearly and explicitly informed your employees that −

  • Approved breaks are limited to a specific duration,

  • Any prolongation of the break goes against your policies,

  • Any extension of the break will result in disciplinary action,

  • Then you should not consider the break time as part of their work hours.

Breaks for Youth Employees

Numerous states possess regulations regarding the timing of granting intervals to personnel who are below 18 years old. Usually, the frequency of rest periods for minors is greater than that of adult workers. The criteria differ by jurisdiction, hence refer to your state's laws for further details.

Health Issue Break

A worker may possess a medical condition that necessitates periodic pauses. In case the worker has a medical condition that is encompassed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, you are obligated to furnish the worker with "reasonable accommodation." A reasonable accommodation refers to an alteration that caters to the requirements of your employee.

Religious Repetition Break

Your staff members may request additional intervals to observe their faith. They may require extra time to engage in religious rituals or study religious texts. You can offer appropriate adjustments to your employees as long as it does not create an unreasonable burden for you.

Rest and Meal Break Strategy

The regulations pertaining to compensated and uncompensated pauses while on the job are adaptable and open to discussion between workers and their employers. Nevertheless, in accordance with the Employment Relations Act 2000, ensuring that employees receive sufficient breaks is an essential aspect of an employer's obligation to maintain a healthy and safe work environment.

Every contract of employment should explicitly inform the employee about the following in uncomplicated language −

  • The duration and frequency of work breaks

  • Any limitations on rest and meal breaks that the employee should be aware of

  • Provision for additional or extended breaks

  • Whether meal breaks are remunerated or not

  • Adequate compensation for any curtailment of rest or meal breaks, if required.

Limitations on Breaks at Work

Businesses have the right to impose specific limitations on rest and meal intervals to cater to their operational requirements. Owing to the character of particular work environments, workers may have to be adaptable in terms of their break schedules and acknowledge particular provisions. These limitations have to be rational and relevant to the job or workplace characteristics. Employers cannot impose restrictions on work breaks without a valid justification, and the conditions must be documented and accepted by the employee.

The employer can solely impose limitations on breaks under the subsequent conditions −

  • If the worker has certain responsibilities that necessitate regular supervision or execution during their break (such as working independently in the store and dealing with customer inquiries, or tending to a medical emergency).

  • When there are instances where the break may be disrupted (such as responding to a medical emergency or addressing a customer inquiry).

  • If the employee is required to take their break in a designated area for safety purposes or to manage specific work obligations.


Intervals for rest and nourishment provide workers with an opportunity to recuperate, rejuvenate, and attend to personal affairs while on duty. Such breaks are crucial for enhancing the health and welfare of employees, and for creating a safer and more efficient work atmosphere.


Q1. What do you understand by Overtime?

Ans. In case an employee works beyond 8 hours in a day or exceeds 40 hours in a week, the employer is obligated to provide compensation at a rate not less than one and a half times the employee's regular pay rate. Additionally, if an employee works for 8 hours on the seventh day of work in a week, they must also receive compensation at the same overtime rate.

Q2. What do you mean by Smoke Break?

Ans. Workers who engage in smoking may desire to have additional pauses. According to the FLSA, you are not obligated to provide them with smoking breaks. However, if you decide to allow employees to take breaks that last from five to twenty minutes, you must consider them as part of their working hours.

Q3. What is Nursing Mother Break?

Ans. As per the law, companies are required to offer lactating mothers time off to pump breast milk for their infants for a period of one year following childbirth. Additionally, it is mandatory to offer a secluded area other than a restroom for the employee to utilize.

Updated on: 10-Apr-2023


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