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.

Health Services Award

Based on what you've told us, it looks like you're covered by the Health Professionals and Support Services Award [MA000027].

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

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

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

Number of hours worked Rest breaks Meal breaks
Less than 4 hours 0 0
4 or more hours - 5 hours 1 0
More than 5 - less than 8 hours 1 1
Over 8 hours 2 1

Taking breaks

An employee and employer can agree to:

  • change the time the employee’s meal break is taken
  • an employee not taking a meal break (when they are working no more than 6 hours)
  • the employee taking a single 20 minute rest break instead of taking 2, 10 minute rest breaks.

When a meal break isn't given

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

Breaks between shifts after working overtime

Employees who work overtime have to get a minimum break of 10 hours between finishing work on 1 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

If the employer instructs an employee to work so they don't get a 10 hour break between shifts when working overtime and they start at their normal shift time the next day they get paid:

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

When employees 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 who works ordinary hours:

  • 9am - 6pm on Monday - Thursday
  • 8am - 4pm on Friday.

She is entitled to a 10 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 8am she will only get 9 hours break.

If Alice starts work at:

  • 8am on Friday, then she will be paid double the ordinary hourly pay rate for all hours worked on Friday
  • 9am on Friday, then she will be paid the ordinary pay rate for the hours she:
    • didn't work from 8am - 9am (because this hour is part of her ordinary hours)
    • worked from 9am - 4pm.

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

Source reference: Health Professionals and Support Services Award [MA000027] clauses 27 and 28.2 external-icon.png

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