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.

Restaurant Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Restaurant Industry Award [MA000119].

There are 2 types of rest breaks under the Restaurant Award:

  • an unpaid break of at least 30 minutes, which doesn't count as time worked
  • a 20 minute paid break, which does count as time worked.

An employee gets the following number of breaks, depending on the hours they actually work (not their rostered hours).

Number of hours worked Paid 20 minute meal breaks Unpaid meal breaks
Less than 5 hours 0 0
5 or more hours - 10 hours 0* 1
Over 10 hours 2*

*If the unpaid meal break is rostered more than 5 hours after starting work, employees get an extra 20-minute paid meal break. This break needs to be taken after an employee has worked at least 2 hours, but less than 5 hours.

Check the Restaurant Award for information about extra or longer breaks in certain situations.

If a full-time or part-time employee takes a break of more than 60 minutes this is considered as a broken work day. The employee will get a split shift allowance. For allowances in this award, go to Penalty rates and allowances.

Taking breaks

Employees can’t:

  • take their unpaid break within 1 hour of starting work or later than 6 hours after starting
  • work more than 5 hours without an unpaid meal break
  • work more than 5 hours after a meal break without an extra paid 20 minute break.

However, an employer and an employee may agree that the unpaid meal break won't be later than 6 and a half hours after starting. They need to make the agreement in the first 5 hours of each shift.

An employer needs to make all reasonable efforts to spread an employee's breaks evenly across their shift.

When a meal break isn't given

If an employee doesn’t get their meal break when they are supposed to, they have to be paid 50% of the employee’s ordinary hourly rate extra from when the break was supposed to start until they get a meal break or their shift ends.

If no meal break was scheduled for the employee, then they have to be paid 50% of the employee’s ordinary hourly rate extra after 6 hours of work (or 6.5 hours if agreed) until they are given a break or their shift ends.

Breaks between shifts

Employees (other than casuals) have to get a minimum break of 10 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work the next day.

An employer can reduce the break to 8 hours when there is a changeover of rosters.

Breaks between shifts after working overtime

Employees who work overtime have to get a minimum break of 8 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work the next day.

When employees working overtime don’t get an 8 hour break between shifts then they get paid the relevant overtime pay rate for the hours they work, until they are released from duty to have an 8 hour break.

When employees working overtime get an 8 hour break 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 who works ordinary hours:

  • 12pm – 8pm on Monday – Thursday
  • 6am – 2pm on Friday.

She is entitled to a 8 hour break between shifts normally.

Alice’s employer asks her to work overtime on Thursday so that she finishes at 12 midnight. If she starts work on Friday at her normal time of 6am she will only get 6 hours break.

If Alice starts work at 8am on Friday so she can have her break, then she will be paid the ordinary pay rate for the hours she:

  • didn’t work from 6am – 8am (because this hour is part of her ordinary hours)
  • worked from 8am – 2pm.

Restaurant Industry Award resources

We’ve made it easier for you to find information about your pay and entitlements under the Restaurant Industry Award. For more tailored information about your Award, visit our interactive tool.

We've got new and improved templates to help people in the Restaurant Industry. Try our interactive template tools

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

Source reference: Restaurant Industry Award [MA000119] clauses 15.1, 16 and 23.2 external-icon.png

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