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.

Electrical Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010 [MA000025].

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

A meal break for employees other than shiftworkers is a 30 minute unpaid break that doesn't count as time worked.

Meal breaks for shiftworkers are 20 minute paid breaks and count as time worked.

An employee (other than a shiftworker) who works for 6 hours or more must get 1 break after every 6 hours worked. Shiftworkers must get a meal break after working no more than 5 hours.

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

Taking breaks

All employees must take the rest break between the time they start work and their meal time.

Employees can’t be asked to work more than 6 hours (or 5 hours for shiftworkers) without a meal break.

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 time and a half from the time the break was scheduled until they get a meal break.

A maintenance employee will be paid their normal rate for their break, if they are told by their employer to work during their break because of:

  • any breakdown of a plant, or
  • routine maintenance of a plant which can only be done while the plant is idle.

Breaks between shifts

Break between shiftwork

The minimum break of 10 hours applies to shiftworkers when:

  • going on shift
  • changing shift rosters
  • returning to day work.

This break starts when they finish any day work, or shiftwork on one day and start work on the next day.

If an employee doesn’t get a break between shiftwork

When shiftworkers don’t get this 10 hour break 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 and
  • when they eventually get their break, the ordinary hourly pay rate for any ordinary hours they don’t work because they are taking the break.

When shiftworkers don’t get a 10 hour break but start work later than their normal shift the next day so they get the 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 shiftwork

Alice is a full-time employee who is changing from night shift to afternoon shifts on Friday. Her ordinary hours are:

  • 9pm – 5am on Monday – Thursday
  • 3pm – 11pm on Friday.

She is entitled to a 10 hour break between changing shift rosters.

Alice’s employer asks her to work an extra 2 hours on Thursday so that she finishes at 7am. If she starts work on Friday at her normal time of 3pm she will only get an 8 hour break.

If Alice starts work at:

  • 3pm on Friday, then she will be paid double the ordinary hourly pay rate for all hours worked on Friday
  • 5pm on Friday, then she will be paid the ordinary pay rate for the hours she:
    • didn’t work from 3pm – 5pm (because this hour is part of her ordinary hours)
    • worked from 5pm – 11pm.

Breaks between shifts after working overtime

Employees (other than casuals) who work overtime should get a minimum break of 10 hours (8 hours for shiftworkers) between finishing work on one day and starting work the next day.

For breaks when working overtime, see When overtime applies.

If an employee doesn't get a break between shifts after overtime

When employees work overtime and (other than casuals) 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:

  • the relevant overtime for the hours they work, until they are released from duty to have a 10 hour break (or 8 hours for shiftworkers) 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) 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 the 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 after overtime

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

  • 9am - 6pm on Monday - Thursday
  • 6am - 2pm on Friday.

He is entitled to a 10 hour break between shifts after working overtime.

Dave's employer asks him to work an extra 3 hours overtime on Thursday so that he finishes at 9pm. If he starts work on Friday at his normal time of 6am he will only get a 9 hour break.

If Dave starts work at:

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

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

Source reference: Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010 [MA000025] clauses 24.9, 24.16 and 27 external-icon.png

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