Rest and meal break entitlements

Employees are entitled to rest and meal breaks that:

  • give them a reasonable chance during work periods to rest, refresh and take care of personal matters
  • are appropriate for the length of time they have worked for the employer.
  • Employers should pay for rest breaks but are not required to pay for meal breaks.

However, there are no specific rules for how long, or when, rest and meal breaks should be – employers and employees should bargain in good faith over the timing and length of breaks.

If an employer does not provide an employee with breaks, this should be discussed by both parties. An employee can take a representative (such as a family member or a union rep) along during a discussion with their employer if they’re not comfortable addressing the issue on their own.

Compensation instead of breaks

An employer and employee can agree to compensation instead of breaks. However, employers must compensate employees if no break is given where a break would be appropriate.

There are no set rules as to what appropriate compensation is, but it must be reasonable. Compensation is reasonable if of similar value to the break. 

Employees with babies

Employers must provide appropriate breaks and facilities for employees with babies, and who wish to breastfeed or express breast milk, where this is reasonable and practicable. These are unpaid breaks unless the employer agrees otherwise.

Additional entitlements

Employers and employees are free to agree to additional entitlements to rest and meal breaks — either paid or unpaid.


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