Employees covered by the Retail Award have to get the following breaks.

 Hours worked Rest break (paid) Meal break
Less than 4 hours No rest break No meal break
4 hours or more but no more than 5 hours One 10 minute rest break No meal break
More than 5 hours but less than 7 hours One 10 minute rest break One meal break
30 - 60 minutes
7 hours of more but less than 10 hours Two 10 minute rest breaks, with one taken in the first half of the shift and another taken in the second half of the shift One meal break
30 - 60 minutes
10 hours of more Two 10 minute rest breaks, with one taken in the first half of the shift and another taken in the second half of the shift Two meal breaks 30 - 60 minutes

Employees can’t work more than 5 hours without a meal break.

Meal breaks are unpaid, except for shift workers. Shift workers are entitled to be paid for all rest and meal breaks.

Note: under the Retail Award, you can’t:

  • require employees to take a rest or meal break within 1 hour of starting work
  • join rest breaks to a meal break.


Luke is a new part-time forklift operator with McKenzie Engineering Products Pty Ltd. His ordinary hours of work are Monday to Friday, 7.00am - 1.00pm (six hours per day). During his first work period, Luke asks his employer, Paul, what breaks he is entitled to take during the day.

Paul has checked the Retail Award and tells Luke that he should take one 10 minute rest break in the morning, as well as a meal break of between 30 and 60 minutes each day. Paul also tells Luke that he will be paid for the rest break; however Luke’s meal break is unpaid.

Paul and Luke negotiate an agreement that Luke will take the 10 minute rest break at 9.00am and the meal break of 45 minutes at 11.30am. They also agree that the breaks may be altered by providing Luke with notice, to better suit the business’s needs. Luke is entitled to payment for 5.25 hours per day, as the meal break is unpaid but the rest break is paid.

Breaks between shifts

You must give your retail employees a 12-hour break between finishing work on one day and starting work on the next day. The break between shifts can be reduced to 10 hours (but no less) by agreement between you and an employee or a group of employees. You should make sure that all agreements are made in writing and that you give a copy to all affected employees. You should also keep a copy for yourself.

If an employee doesn't get at least 12 hours off work between shifts, they must be paid double time until they have a 12 hour break between shifts (or 10 hours by agreement). The employee is also entitled to be paid for any ordinary hours that they would otherwise have worked during the break between the shifts.

Ordinary hours are to be set so that your full-time retail employees have 2 days off (in a row) each week or 3 days off (in a row) in a 2 week period. A retail employee can request in writing for this requirement not to apply to them if they want to. If such an agreement is made, you have to keep a record of this as part of your record keeping obligations.


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Page last updated: 02 Sep 2010