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.

Security Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Security Services Industry Award [MA000016].

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

A meal break is a 30 minute (or more) unpaid break that doesn't 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 Rest breaks Meal breaks
4 hours or less 0 0
4 or more hours - less than 8 hours 10 minutes’ break in total 1
8 or more hours - less than 10 hours 20 minutes’ break in total 1
10 or more hours - less than 12 hours 25 minutes’ break in total 1
12 hours or more 30 minutes’ break in total 1

An employee who works more than 5 hours has to get at least 1 meal break, unless it's operationally impractical.

Check the Security Award for information about long break entitlements.

Taking breaks

Where possible, when an employee is working for 8 hours or more, the rest break has to be taken between 4 hours and 5 hours from when the shift started.

Employees can take their rest breaks:

  • all at once, or
  • in smaller portions throughout their shift.

When a meal break isn't given

There is no extra payment (eg. penalty rate) for not getting a meal break.

Breaks between shifts

Employees have to get a minimum break of 8 hours between finishing work on 1 shift and starting work the next shift. Work includes any reasonable additional hours or overtime.

If an employee doesn't get a break between shifts

If the employer instructs an employee to work so they don’t get an 8 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 an 8 hour break between shifts
  • when they eventually get their break between shifts, the minimum hourly pay rate for any ordinary hours they don’t work because they are taking the break.

When employees get an 8 hour break between shifts when working overtime 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 minimum hourly 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:

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

She is entitled to an 8 hour break between shifts.

Alice's employer asks her to work an extra 5 hours on Thursday so that she finishes at 11pm. If she starts work on Friday at her normal time of 6am she will only get 7 hours break.

If Alice starts work at:

  • 6am on Friday, then she will be paid double the minimum hourly pay rate for all hours worked on Friday
  • 7am on Friday, then she will be paid the minimum hourly 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 Security Award summary.

Source reference: Security Services Industry Award [MA000016] clauses 14.2, 14.3 and 14.4 external-icon.png

You do not have javascript enabled. Please select your preferred industry from the links below, to view your tailored content for this section.

Think a mistake might have been made?

Mistakes can happen. The best way to fix them usually starts with talking.

Check out our Help resolving workplace issues section for practical advice on:

  • figuring out if a mistake has been made
  • talking to your employer or employee about fixing it
  • getting help from us if you can't resolve it.

Want to save this information for later?

If you might need to read this information again, save it for later so you can access it quickly and easily.

You might also be interested in


Page reference No: 2192