Breaks

Rest breaks and meal breaks

A rest break allows an employee to rest for a short period of time during work hours. Rest breaks are also referred to as 'crib breaks', 'rest pauses' or 'tea breaks'.

A meal break is a longer period of uninterrupted rest that allows the employee to eat a meal.

Awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements provide for paid and unpaid rest breaks and meal breaks, including:

  • the length of the breaks
  • when they need to be taken
  • the rules about payment.

Breaks between shifts

Awards and registered agreements may provide for a minimum amount of time off between the end of one shift and the start of another.

To find information about the minimum break requirements in your industry, please select from the list below.

Building and Construction Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010 [MA000020].

A rest break is a 10 minute paid break that counts as time worked.

A meal break is a 30 minute unpaid break that doesn’t count as time worked, except for shiftworkers. Meal breaks for shiftworkers are paid and count as time worked.

An employee gets 1 rest break and 1 meal break each day.

An employee who works for more than 5 hours must get at least 1 meal break.

Check the Building and Construction Award for information about wash time before lunch, paid meal breaks for employees involved in shaft or trench sinking and longer break entitlements in certain situations.

Taking breaks

The rest break has to be taken between 9am and 11am.

The meal break for day workers has to be taken between 12pm and 1pm or a time agreed to between the employer and majority of employees. 

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

When a meal break isn't given

If an employee has to work during their meal break to finish work, they have to be paid the double time rate for this time.

The employee may ask to finish work 30 minutes early instead of being paid at double time. When this happens:

  • the time worked during the meal break is paid at the ordinary time rate and
  • the time off at the end of the day forms part of the ordinary working time and has to be paid at the ordinary rate.

Breaks between shifts after working overtime

Employees who work overtime have to get a minimum break of 10 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work the next day. If they have worked more than 20 hours, they have to get a 12 hour break.

This minimum break between shifts applies only after an employee works overtime.

Breaks between shifts after working overtime - shiftworkers

The minimum break between shifts applies when overtime is worked because of:

  • changing shift rosters
  • another employee replacing a shiftworker who doesn’t work their shift, or
  • employees agreeing to swap shifts.

A shiftworker who works overtime has to get a minimum break of 8 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work on the next day. 

If an employee doesn't get a break between shifts

When employees don't get a 10 hour break (or 8 hours for shiftworkers) between shifts and they start at their normal shift time the next day they get paid:

  • double time for the hours they work, until they are released from duty to have a 10 hour break between shifts and
  • when they eventually get their break between shifts, the ordinary hourly pay rate for any ordinary hours they don’t work because they are taking the break.

When employees don’t get a 10 hour break (or 8 hours for shiftworkers) between shifts but start work later than their normal shift the next day so they get a break they get paid:

  • for all the hours they work
  • the ordinary pay rate for the hours between when they were originally rostered to start work and when they actually started work.

Example: When employees have to start later to get a break between shifts

Alice is a full-time employee (not a shiftworker) who works ordinary hours:

  • 9am – 6pm on Monday – Thursday
  • 7am – 3pm on Friday.

She is entitled to a 10 hour break between shifts.

Alice's employer asks her to work an extra 4 hours on Thursday so that she finishes at 10pm. If she starts work on Friday at her normal time of 7am she will only get a 9 hour break.

If Alice starts work at:

  • 7am on Friday, then she will be paid double the ordinary hourly pay rate for all hours worked on Friday
  • 8am on Friday, then she will be paid the ordinary pay rate for the hours she:
    • didn't work from 7am - 8am (because this hour is part of her ordinary hours)
    • worked from 8am - 3pm.

To find out more about who this award applies to, go to the Building and Construction Award summary.

Source reference: Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010 [MA000020] clauses 35 and 36 external-icon.png

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