Breaks are important for your health, and allow you to be safer and more productive at work. Employees are entitled to rest breaks and meal breaks. 

Rest breaks allow you to have a short break during work hours. These are also called ‘rest pauses’ or ‘tea breaks’.  

A meal break is a longer period of time that allows you to eat a meal, such as lunch or dinner. 

The relevant Award or Agreement for your job or workplace will set out the amount of time you are entitled to for rest and meal breaks. They will also state whether they will be paid or unpaid, and when they must be taken. You can find out more about what Award or Agreements by looking at our fact sheet here

Hospitality

The following are the requirements around breaks in the Hospitality Industry Award:

5-6 hours - Unpaid meal break up to 30 minutes

6-8 hours - Unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes

8-10 hours - Unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes and 20 minute paid rest break

10+ hours - Unpaid mean break of at least 30 minutes and 2 x 20 minute paid rest breaks

Retail

The following are the requirements around breaks in the General Retail Industry Award:

4-5 hours - 10 minute paid rest break

5-7 hours - Unpaid meal break of up to 30 minutes and 10 minute paid rest break

7-10 hours - Unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes and 2 x 10 minute paid rest breaks.

10+ hours - 2 x unpaid meal breaks of at least 30 minutes and 2 x 10 minute paid rest breaks.

What if I am not getting the breaks I am entitled to?

Your Award will tell you when you are supposed to take breaks, and how long your break should be. Your Award will also tell you if you should be paid extra if you don’t get to take your breaks.

If you think you are not getting what you are entitled to, get in touch with us. We can give you advice about what your entitlements are, and help you decide what to do. We can also direct you to other people who can help.

Examples

Scenario 1 

Sam works at a local fast food business. The manager, Maria, tells them they can take a 10-minute paid break if their shift is 4 hours, to allow them to sit down and have a coffee. Maria says that if their shift is 6 hours, they can also take a 30-minute unpaid break, so they can have lunch. 

This is okay. This is because Sam is covered by the Fast Food Award. This Award states that Sam is entitled to a paid rest break if they work 4-5 hours. If they work 5-9 hours, they are entitled to a paid rest break, and an unpaid meal break. 

Scenario 2 

Alex is a barista at a local café. The café's manager, Tania, tells her that she cannot take a break because the café is busy and they need her to help out. Alex’s shifts are normally more than 6 hours long. 

This is not okay. This is because Alex is covered by the Hospitality Award. This Award states that Alex is entitled to a 30-minute meal break if her shift is more than 6 hours.  

To find out more about how to join your union, visit http://www.unionsact.org.au/joinyourunion/ or have a look at our fact sheet here.

Authorised by M Harrison for UnionsACT, 11 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 2601.

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