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.

Vehicle Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award 2010 [MA000089]. 

The following rest breaks and meal breaks don’t apply to persons employed:

  • principally to perform vehicle sales related duties
  • as driveway attendants, roadhouse attendants or console operators or
  • continuous shiftworkers.

For rest break and meal break entitlements for these groups, see below:

  • Breaks for driveway attendants, console operators, roadhouse attendants
  • Breaks for vehicle salespersons
  • Breaks for continuous shiftworkers working in vehicle manufacturing.

Rest breaks and meal breaks

A rest break is a break of up to 15 minutes.

A meal break is a 30 - 60 minute unpaid break that doesn't count as time worked.

An employee gets 1 meal break each day and can be provided with either a morning or afternoon rest break. If an employee gets both rest breaks, at least one of them will be a paid break.

Check the Vehicle Award for information about different break entitlements in certain situations.

Taking breaks

An employee who gets 2 rest breaks has to take 1 break in the first half of their shift, and the other break in the second half of their shift.

Drafting, planning and technical employees have to take their meal break between 11.30pm and 2pm or a time agreed to between the employer and the 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 doesn't get their meal break within the first 5 hours, they have to be paid time and a half from the time from that time until they get a meal break.

If an employee has to work during their meal break they have to be paid time and half for the time they work during the meal break until they get a meal break.

Maintenance workers who are instructed to work through the meal break to fix breakdowns or for routine maintenance that can only be done when the plant is idle are paid at ordinary time rates.

Different rest breaks and meal breaks

Breaks for driveway attendants, console operators, roadhouse attendants

Driveway attendants, console operators and roadhouse attendants are entitled to:

  • a meal break and rest break at the discretion of the employer or
  • a 20 minute paid break while still maintaining customer service that counts as time worked.

Part-time and casual who work less than 5 hours per day aren't entitled to these breaks.

Breaks for vehicle salespersons

The Vehicle Award doesn't have any rules about breaks for people employed principally to sell vehicles.

Check Safework Australia external-icon.png for guidance on taking breaks to manage the risk of fatigue at work.

Breaks for continuous shiftworkers in vehicle manufacturing

Meal breaks for continuous shiftworkers are 20 minute paid breaks and count as time worked. An employee gets 1 meal break each shift.

Breaks between shifts after working overtime

The following rest breaks and meal breaks don’t apply to persons employed:

  • principally to perform vehicle sales related duties
  • as driveway attendants, roadhouse attendants or console operators or
  • continuous shiftworkers.

All other employees who work overtime should get a minimum break of 10 hours between finishing work on one day and starting work the next day.

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

For breaks when working overtime, see When overtime applies.

If an employee doesn't get a break between shifts

When employees (other than casuals) don’t get a 10 hour break 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 (other than casuals) get a 10 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 (not a shiftworker) who works ordinary hours:

  • 11am – 8pm on Monday – Thursday
  • 6am – 2pm on Friday.

She is entitled to a 10 hour break between shifts.

Alice’s employer asks her to work an extra hour on Thursday so that she finishes at 9pm. If she starts work on Friday at her normal time of 6am she will only get a 9 hour break.

If Alice starts work at:

  • 6am on Friday, then she will be paid double the ordinary hourly pay rate for all hours worked on Friday
  • 7am on Friday, then she will be paid the ordinary pay rate for the hours she:
    • didn’t work from 6am – 7am (because this hour is part of her ordinary hours)
    • worked from 7am – 2pm.

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

Source reference: Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award 2010 [MA000089] clause 26, 28.6, 43.1(a) 54.1 and 61.2 external-icon.png

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