Employee Break Laws: What They Are and How to Comply

employee break laws

Employee break laws are important. Having your employees take time off during the workday to eat lunch, rest from their work, or take a step back may seem like an inconvenience as a business owner. After all, time off work is lost productivity.

However, in many states, short rest breaks and lunch breaks are mandated by law. Which means you must allow your workers to take them if your business meets the requirements.

Despite there being no strict federal laws on breaks and lunches, few business owners know exactly what employee break laws do exist on a state level and how to comply with them.

For businesses that do offer work breaks above and beyond those required by law, it can often be confusing whether these breaks are to be paid or unpaid.

What’s more, with so many variations in the times your employees work, the roles they do, and where they work, it can become confusing to know exactly how much break time your employees are legally entitled to each day.

Differences in age, role, location, hours your employee works per week, and hours your employee works per day all play a factor in whether your employee is legally required to have a break during the workday.

If you’re a business owner or manager with employees across different states or provinces in the United States or Canada, or are managing teams with staff in countries like the U.K., understanding exactly what each area’s break laws are and how to comply can be a seemingly endless task.

Not complying with rest breaks, lunch break laws by state, or international employment laws can lead to serious problems for your business.

Penalties for not complying can be large. In many cases, your company may be investigated and fined if you are found to repeatedly violate labor laws.

Employee breaks and wellness

If you’re a large or rapidly growing company, you may be starting to place focus on employee wellbeing to help you gain a competitive edge.

Many companies are now starting to understand that although allowing employees to take breaks throughout the day reduces the time they spend working, it may actually lead to increased productivity, efficiency, and happiness.

Recently published studies show that employees who are allowed to take regular breaks at work are more focused, more productive, and have improved mental health compared to those who are not allowed work breaks.

To help you understand the federal labor laws on lunch breaks, we’ve combed through the legislation and requirements to put together this guide.

We’ve also taken a look at the latest research and advice on offering employee break times in the workplace to help you understand whether introducing regular lunch or break times for your employees can lead to increased output.

why comply

Why you should consider giving your employees work breaks

Before we dive into the regulations around employee work breaks and lunch breaks, it’s a good idea to pause and think about why offering breaks is a good idea.
While many of us are still of the mindset that taking regular breaks means taking a break from being productive, efficient, and valuable, recent research shows the opposite is true.
In fact, survey and productivity data show that employees who regularly take work breaks are more productive, more efficient, and better workers than those who work for stretches without a break.
The science around why we need to take breaks at work has evolved over time.
Previously it was thought that sticking through your work schedule and staying on-task was the best way to be the most productive.
Let’s have a look at the reasons why you should give your employees work break

#1 Rest breaks are a great reset

However, employers are now learning that their staff are better workers when they’re able to step away from work for short periods of time.
Science shows that taking breaks from work prevents decision fatigue leading to better decision-making and a reduction in errors caused through tiredness and overexposure to tasks.
Having downtime also allows the brain to form memories and learn things faster, meaning your employees will be faster to take on new information and progress in their roles

#2 Breaks encourage team engagement

Research also shows that 81% of employees who take daily breaks in the form of eating lunch and talking to a colleague have a strong desire to take an active role in their company.
What’s more, allowing your employees to have regular breaks from work has been shown to reduce employee turnover, increase work attendance, and decrease the amount of employees who are present but unproductive

#3 Work breaks benefit mental health

In the U.K., the Mental Health Foundation has found that poor mental health results in 70 million missed workdays. One in five employees in the U.K. takes a day off due to stress, and 25% of employees have considered resigning from a job due to stress.
Allowing your employees to take work breaks throughout the day, even if these breaks are short, has been shown to improve employee mental health. This improved mental health has huge benefits for your team, and for business. A recent World Health Organization study found that for every $1 invested in improving the mental health of employees results in a return of $4 in improved health and productivity.
As the benefits of employee mental health become clearer, it is more important than ever to offer your employees regular work and lunch breaks. This is also true when you consider the changing shape of the workplace.
In a study conducted by Tork showing the changing attitudes around the lunch break, 62% of the future workforce said they would opt for a longer or more regular lunch break if possible. This compares to only 46% of the current workforce.
What’s more, in the same study, 16% of the future workforce said they would be willing to take a 10% pay cut if it meant having a lunch break every day.
With these statistics in mind, it’s clear that there are tangible benefits from allowing your employees to take regular breaks at work and for you to implement a mandatory lunch break. However, the rules and regulations around implementing short breaks and lunch breaks are complex and vary by state.
Make sure any work breaks you implement are compliant with regulation with our breakdown below.
US federal labor laws

What are the U.S. federal labor laws for lunch breaks?

In the U.S., the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the standards for wages and overtime pay for most private and public employment within the United States. This act requires employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times their regular hourly rate of pay for hours that exceed their contracted work hours.
This act restricts the amount of time children under the age of 18 can spend at work and it prevents them from working in dangerous roles and during school times.
While this federal law mandates the minimum rate you can pay your employees and guarantees an overtime rate at a minimum of 1.5x their standard hourly rate, it does not include requirements for lunch or coffee breaks.
While the act does not stipulate that employers must provide their employees with set break times throughout the day, it does require that break times of between 5 and 20 minutes are paid when offered by employers. This means that any break time offered by your business that is between five and 20 minutes long is paid by your company and treated as compensable work time. These times are typically used for coffee or snack breaks but they aren’t always.
So, if your company offers short breaks of between five and 20 minutes, while these aren’t mandated by federal break laws, your employees must be paid for this time.
However, if your company offers bona fide meal periods — like a lunch break — that lasts at least 30 minutes, these are defined as serving a different purpose to snack or coffee breaks and they are not compensable.
Make note: your employees must be relieved of all their work duties during this period of time for it to count as a non-compensable period of time.
Overview of the federal labor laws for lunch breaks: Under the FLSA, there are no federal labor laws on breaks or lunches. If your company gives your employees short breaks of five to 20 minutes (such as for coffee or snacks), this time must be counted as the time your employee is working and must be paid. If your company mandates a lunch break of more than 30 minutes, this time is treated as a meal period and is different from a short break and is not required to be paid, so long as your employee is free of all their work duties for this period.

Something to watch out for

When asked by Right Management in a study, 39% of employees admitted to eating lunch at their desks regularly and 28% of employees admitted to rarely taking any breaks.
If this happens with your employees, this can be problematic.
If your system automatically logs lunch and meal break times, that are not paid, on behalf of your employees even though they may still be technically working, this can be seen as a violation of FLSA.
What’s more, you may still be in violation of FLSA if you log lunch breaks for your employees while they are eating lunch if they eat lunch and continue to undertake work-related tasks. If this situation happens, your employee must be paid for this meal break because it is not a dedicated time away from work

What happens when you fail to track lunch break

If your company fails to track lunch breaks properly and records lunch breaks for your employees when they either don’t take any or are working as well as having lunch, you are in violation of FLSA.
The result of this can be a wage and hour lawsuit or the receipt of penalties from the Department of Labor.
Either of these is a costly experience that you should implement steps to avoid.
The most important step is to accurately track your employees’ lunch breaks and mandate that they step away from all work-related duties during this lunch period. If, for any reason, your employees continue to execute any work-related tasks during their lunch break you must account for this and include this in their paycheck.
We’ll discuss effective ways to track employee working times later in this guide
US state labor laws breakdown

Breakdown of U.S. state labor laws for lunch breaks

Below is a breakdown of any additional state labor laws for workers in the U.S

Alabama employee break laws

Alabama only has break laws for minor employees. Employees aged 14 and 15 must be allowed to have a 30-minute break during a working day of more than five hours.
Any breaks that are less than 30 minutes cannot be counted and the 30 minutes must be uninterrupted.

Alaska employee break laws

Like Alabama, Alaska only has break laws for minors. A minor employee must be given an uninterrupted 30-minute break if they work more than six hours. This break can be unpaid.
The break must be given at a minimum after the first hour and a half of work and a maximum before the last hour of the employee’s work.
If agreed to, employer and employee may agree to modify the break requirements but this must be agreed by both parties.

Arizona employee break laws

Arizona does not have any state labor laws for employee lunch or rest breaks.

Arkansas employee break laws

Arkansas does not require rest or meal breaks and the employer is not required to pay for any break times given if the employee is relieved of their work duties. If rest breaks are given, any rest break under 20 minutes must be counted as time worked.

California employee break laws

California has multiple state labor break laws for employees.
Non-exempt employees who work more than five hours per day are required to receive a 30-minute unpaid meal break. If this employee works 6 hours or fewer, this break can be waived if both the employer and employee provide written consent.
If an employee works more than 10 hours in a day, they must be provided with a second 30-minute unpaid break period. If the workday is less than a total of 12 hours, this second break can be waived by mutual written agreement.
If break times are failed to be given or are not given fully, the employer must pay an additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular pay rate for each day that the breaks were not provided or were not correctly provided.
If you employ people in the healthcare sector, employees who work more than eight hours can voluntarily waive one of their two meal breaks. This waiver must be signed by both employer and employee and must be given with a minimum of one day’s notice.
Rest break laws in California are also strictly defined. Nonexempt employees are entitled to rest periods throughout their working day. If possible, this rest time should be in the middle of the working shift. If there are circumstances that prevent an employee from taking their break in the middle of the working shift, they must be allowed to take it at another time of their choosing.
The amount of rest time an employee is entitled to depends on the amount of hours they work per shift. Every four hours worked entitles an employee to an uninterrupted work break of 10 minutes.
These employee rest breaks are counted as work and must be paid.
Even though this time is short and is paid by the employer, the employee is not required to stay on work premises and the company cannot require the employee to stay during this rest period. The employee must also be relieved of all their work duties during these 10-minute rest break intervals.

Colorado employee break laws

In Colorado, employees who work more than five hours must receive a meal break of at least 30 minutes. If the employee is relieved of all their work-related duties during this time, the meal break can be unpaid.
During the mandatory meal breaks, employees are allowed to pursue personal activities and the employer cannot prevent the employee from enjoying personal time during these break periods.
If the employee is not fully relieved from their work duties and remains responsible for any work activities, then the break must be paid by the employer.
Certain employees are exempt from rest and meal break requirements. Exempt employee categories include: administrative, executive, supervisory, professional and outside sales employees.
In certain industries, employees must be allowed a 10-minute break for every four hours of working time. These industries include:
  • Retained and Service Occupations
  • Food and Beverage
  • Health and Medical
  • Commercial Support

Delaware employee break laws

Employee break laws in Delaware require employees to be given 30 minutes break for a meal time if an employee works more than 7.5 hours in a day. This break time must happen at least two hours into the shift and before the final two hours of the shift.
In Delaware, employee break times may be unpaid if the employee is relieved of all of their work-related duties and the 30 minutes must be uninterrupted.

District of Columbia employee break laws

Washington D.C. does not require break times or periods for anyone other than nursing mothers.
Nursing mothers must be provided a reasonable amount of time to go to a dedicated space that is sanitary and close to the employee to express breast milk. The room used cannot be the bathroom or toilet. This break time can coincide with any other break times given by your company and does not have to be an individual time of its own.

Florida employee break laws

Like other states, Florida has break laws for minors only. Minors are not allowed to work more than four hours in a row without a 30-minute break.
There are, however, four exceptions to this rule:
  • 16-17 year olds who have graduated from high school
  • Minors who have not graduated high school and are still attending high school are required to hold a valid certificate of exemption to this rule signed by the school superintendent
  • Minors who are enrolled in a public school and who qualify for a hardship exemption such as economic necessity
  • Minors who are employed in domestic service in private homes or employed by their parents or pages employed in the Florida legislature

Georgia employee break laws

Georgia does not have any specified rest or break laws. The state does however require a break for nursing mothers and an accommodation of breaks required by those with religious beliefs.
Nursing mothers must be able to express breast milk during unpaid breaks and they also must be provided with a room which is not a restroom or toilet. Like in Washington D.C., this break time can coincide with any other breaks provided by the employer and does not have to be paid.

Idaho employee break laws

Idaho has no employee break laws.

Illinois employee break laws

Illinois has several employee break and rest laws and requirements.
Employees working 7.5 hours or more must be provided with a 20 minute unpaid meal break. This break cannot be given more than five hours after the start of the work period.
Employers must provide at least one day of rest per week. However, there are five exceptions to this rule:
  • Part-time employees who work 20 hours or less are exempt
  • Employees who are vital to a business are exempt. These are employees who are needed in the case of machinery breakdown or to provide urgent equipment repairs or employees who are experienced and able to prevent other employee injury or damage to property.
  • Employees in agriculture, mining, or security are exempt
  • Professional, administrative, and executive employees are exempt

Indiana employee break laws

Indiana has no employee break or meal laws unless the employee is a minor. Minors must be provided one or two rest periods that total 30 minutes when the employee works over six consecutive hours. These breaks can be taken at any time during the working period.

Iowa employee break laws

Iowa does not require any meal or break periods for adult employees. For minors, Iowa requires employees under the age of 16 to be given a 30-minute break when working 5 hours or more.

Kentucky employee break laws

Kentucky requires that employees be provided a reasonable lunch period close to the middle of an employees shift. This break cannot be earlier than three hours from the start of the shift and can be no later than five hours into a shift.

Louisiana employee break laws

Like other states, Louisiana only has employee break laws for minors. Employees under the age of 18 must be given a 30-minute meal break when they work five or more consecutive hours. This break can be unpaid.

Maine employee break laws

Maine has requirements for both employee meal breaks and rest breaks. All employees who work six or more hours are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted break, and this must be taken. If the employee is completely relieved of their duties, this break can be unpaid.
Employers with three employees or fewer on duty at one time are not required to provide these rest periods. However, when this is the case, employers must provide shorter, frequent rest breaks for their three or fewer employees.
In cases where an employees break would cause a danger to life, public safety, property, or public health, the 30-minute break time is not required and the employee can work for the duration of their shift without a break.

Maryland employee break laws

Maryland has employee break laws for minors and retail workers. Minors must be given a 30-minute break for every five hours they work. Retail workers are entitled to short 15-minute break for shifts between four and six consecutive hours. For shifts of six hours or longer, employees are entitled to a 30-minute break.

Massachusetts employee break laws

Employees must be given a 30-minute break after six hours of work. Employees must also be given a full day of rest after working for six consecutive days. This day of rest is defined as a full 24 hours and must include the time period between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm.

Michigan employee break laws

Michigan has employee break laws for minors only. Minors are required to be given a 30-minute consecutive break for every five hours worked.

Minnesota employee break laws

Minnesota employees must be given a meal break that provides sufficient time to eat. This break may be unpaid if it is longer than 20 minutes. For breaks under 20 minutes, employees are required to be paid.
Nursing mothers must be provided with sufficient unpaid break times each day to express milk. These breaks can happen at the same time as other breaks and are not required to be exclusive. Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide a sanitary space to express milk that is close to the employee’s working area and is free from a toilet.
All employees must be given a restroom break after every four hours of work.

Mississippi employee break laws

Mississippi has no meal or rest break laws.

Montana employee break laws

Rest breaks are not required by Montana state law. However, if the employer provides rest or meal breaks, this must be counted as time worked.

Nebraska employee break laws

Nebraska does not require any employee break times or meal breaks.

New Hampshire employee break laws

Employees must receive a 30-minute meal break after working five hours. If employees are able to eat during work time, while working, and the employer allows employees to work, a meal break is not required.
If an employee works on a Sunday that employee must be given a 24-hour rest during the following 6 days.
Employers requiring employees to work on a Sunday must post a list of employees required to work on Sundays and when their day of rest is during the following six days. This list must be posted within the workplace and is also required to be filed with the New Hampshire Labor Commissioner.

Nevada employee break laws

Nevada has employee break law requirements for breaks, rest, nursing mothers, and domestic mothers. These laws are more relaxed than other states in that employees must be provided with a short break of 10 minutes for every four hours worked and employees must also receive a break of 30-minutes after working eight consecutive hours.
For domestic workers who live in the household in which they work, the employee and employer may agree in writing to exclude certain breaks from the employee’s wages. These exclusions include:
  • Meal breaks of at least 30 minutes
  • Sleep breaks shorter than eight hours
  • All periods of complete freedom where the domestic worker is allowed to leave the premises

New York employee break laws

Employees working during a typical lunch period are required to have a 30-minute meal break. Employees working before 11:00 am and after 7:00 pm are required to have a further second meal break of at least 20 minutes.
Employees who work at least six hours between 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm must be allowed a meal break of a minimum of 45 minutes. This break should not fall at the beginning or end of the time worked.
In a situation where an employee is the only employee of their type or occupation, the employee may choose to volunteer to forgo their work break requirement. If this is the case, the employee must be permitted to eat while working. If this employee requests a meal break, this break request must be granted.

North Dakota employee break laws

All employees who work five hours or more are required to have a 30-minute meal break. This applies whenever there are two or more employees working at a time. If the employee is completely removed from all work-related duties, this break can be unpaid.

Ohio employee break laws

Minors must be given a 30-minute break for every five hours of work. This break is not required to be paid.

Oklahoma employee break laws

Employees under the age of 16 must be given a 30-minute break for every five hours of work. These employees must also be given one hour of rest per every eight hours worked.

Oregon employee break laws

Employees in Oregon are entitled to a meal break of 30 minutes for every six hours worked. If the work shift is between six and seven hours, the meal break must take place between hours two and five. If the work shift is longer than seven hours, the break must be given between hours three and six.
Minors working in Oregon must be given a meal break of at least 30-minutes during their work and this must be no later than five hours and one minute after their work shift starts.

Pennsylvania employee break laws

Employees working five hours or more must receive a 30-minute meal break.

Rhode Island employee break laws

Employees must be given a 20-minute break when working six hours or more. Employees working eight hours or more must be given a 30-minute meal break. These breaks can be unpaid.
Rhode Island has protections in place for employees who refuse to work on Sundays or holidays. Employers are prohibited from taking any retaliatory action against employees who refuse to work these days.

South Carolina employee break laws

There are no required meal breaks or rest period requirements.

South Dakota employee break laws

There are no required meal breaks or rest period requirements.

Tennessee employee break laws

Employees working six or more hours must be given a 30-minute break. This break may not be scheduled within the first hour of the working shift.
Employees working in an environment or business that provides ample short breaks are exempt from break requirements. This means if your employees are able to take many short breaks throughout their day, they are not entitled to a full break.
Further exemptions can apply to employees that are tipped. If both the employer and employee agree, the 30-minute rest period can be waived.

Texas employee break laws

There are no required meal breaks or rest period requirements, however, employers must provide employees with a minimum of 24 hours rest every seven working days.

Utah employee break laws

Minor employees must be given a meal break of at least 30-minutes for every five hours the employee works in addition to a break of 10 minutes for every four hours worked. The 30-minute break must be no later than five hours after the employee starts working.
If the employee is not relieved of all of their working duties, this break must be paid.
Minors are prohibited from working more than three consecutive hours without a break of 10 minutes or more.

Vermont employee break laws

There are no required meal breaks or rest period requirements other than a requirement to provide employees with ample opportunity for bathroom breaks and short eating breaks.

Virginia employee break laws

Minors are required to have a break of 30 minutes or longer after five hours of consecutive work.

Washington employee break laws

Employees working five hours or more are required to receive a 30 minute break. This must be taken no earlier than two hours into the shift and no later than five hours into the shift.
Any breaks must ideally be given in the middle of the working shift.
Minors aged 14 and 15 are no longer able to work more than four hours without being given a meal period that is a minimum of 30 minutes. Employees aged 16 and 17 are prohibited from working more than five hours without a meal break of a minimum of 30 minutes. This break must fall between the 2nd and 5th hours of work. If minors are required to work overtime, they must be given an additional 30-minute break before an overtime shift that is three or more hours longer than the typical working day.
Meal breaks are able to be unpaid if employees are relieved of all working duties. If the employee is required to remain on the work premises the break must be paid.

West Virginia employee break laws

Employees who are prohibited from eating while working and are not allowed a lunch break are required to be given a 20-minute break when working six or more hours.
Employees under the age of 16 must be given a 30-minute meal break when working five or more hours.

Wisconsin employee break laws

The state of Wisconsin recommends employers give breaks to all adult employees and requires breaks be given to minors.
Adults are required to be given breaks of 30 minutes or longer when working six or more hours in a shift.
If an employee works through the hours of 6:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm, or 12:00am, employees must be given a meal break.
Canada federal employee break laws

What are the federal employee break laws in Canada?

Like the U.S., Canada has a set of regulations that dictate how employees can work and stipulate what employers must provide for employees. Also like the U.S., there is no legislation in Canada that mandates workers to be allowed coffee breaks. However, in Canada, many employers choose to provide workers with those breaks.
All provinces in Canada have a minimum amount of rest time required between days of working and many provinces mandate rest periods after a certain number of hours each day. However, not all provinces have the same employee break laws and you must check the relevant rules and regulations for the provinces your employees work in.
We’ll provide a detailed breakdown of the relevant rules for each province later in this guide.
Canadian province labor laws

Breakdown of Canadian province labor laws for employee breaks and rest periods

Ontario employee break laws

The Canadian province of Ontario requires that all employees are given a meal break of at least 30 minutes for every five consecutive hours they work. This break can be split into two meal break periods that total 30 minutes if agreed by the employer and employee.
Meal breaks are typically unpaid and there is no requirement for employees to be paid for this time. If employers do choose to pay employees for this break time, employees must still be totally free from their work requirements and not be required to
Employees in Ontario are also required to have a minimum period of rest from work and there are restrictions on the amount of time an employee is allowed to work. An employee may only work a maximum of 12 hours per day and employees must have a minimum of one day of full rest from work each week.
Exceptions to the 12-hour stipulation are able to be made under the following circumstances:
  • An accident occurs in the workplace
  • An urgent work-related issue requires resolution
  • An unforeseabeable or unpreventable circumstance occurs

Alberta employee break laws

Employees must be given a 30-minute break for every five consecutive hours of work. If an employee is required to remain on the work premises during this time, the work break must be paid.
The Canadian province of Alberta also requires employees to be paid overtime for any work done over 44 hours per week. Any employee working over eight hours per day must be paid 1.5x their typically salary for the overage. If agreed by employer and employee, employees may take time off from work rather than be paid additional compensation for hours in excess of eight per day. This may only happen by written agreement.
Alberta stipulates that employees must be given one day of rest per week but that in certain circumstances employees may be allowed to work for 24 consecutive days providing these days are followed by four consecutive days of break.

British Columbia employee break laws

Like other Canadian provinces, British Columbia mandates that all employees must be given a 30-minute break when working more than five consecutive hours. If employees are required to remain at work during this break time, the break must be paid.
British Columbia also requires that employees must be paid overtime at 1.5x the regular rate of pay if the employee works more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.
Employers must provide a minimum of eight hours break per working shift.

Manitoba employee break laws

Employees working in Manitoba are entitled to a 30-minute break for five consecutive hours of work. Other breaks such as coffee or cigarette breaks are able to be taken by employees at the discretion of the employer and these breaks are not required to be paid.
Manitoba has additional rules for overtime that require employees to be paid for any time worked over their standard hours. The maximum standard hours for employees is 40 hours per week or eight hours per day. Time over this must be counted as overtime. Break periods are not included in overtime calculations.

New Brunswick employee break laws

As with other Canadian provinces, New Brunswick requires employees to receive a 30-minute break for every five consecutive hours of work. If the employee is able to leave the workplace, this break can be unpaid. If the employee remains on ‘standby’ or ‘on-call’ during their break period, the break must be paid, despite the employee carrying out no work.
Overtime in New Brunswick is counted at above 44 hours per week and employers must pay employees 1.5x their standard wage for any hours worked in excess of 44 hours per week.

Newfoundland employee break laws

Newfoundland’s break law is different to other Canadian provinces and allows the employee to receive a 1-hour break after every five hours of consecutive work. Changes or variations to this period of time are allowed and these must be agreed to by the employer and employee together. If the employee is fully relieved of all working duties, the break may be unpaid.
Newfoundland sets a standard working week at 40 hours and any time worked over this must be counted as overtime and must be paid at 1.5x the employee’s standard rate of pay. Overtime calculations are not required to be calculated for agricultural employees.

Northwest Territories employee break laws

As with other provinces, a 30-minute break is required after every five consecutive hours of work.

Nova Scotia employee break laws

After working five consecutive hours, employees are entitled to a 30-minute break. If employees are able to leave the workplace during this time, the break is not required to be paid. If the employee must remain on-site during this time, this break time is required to be paid.
In circumstances where it is dangerous for an employee to take a break or where it would be impractical and may cause an accident, it is permissible for an employer to require the employee to remain at work and ‘on standby’ during their break period.

Prince Edward Island employee break laws

Employees are entitled to a 30-minute break for every five consecutive hours of work. Employers must provide a minimum of 24 hours of rest every seven days and that day should be Sunday, if possible.

Quebec employee break laws

Employees working more than five consecutive hours are required to receive a break of 30 minutes. This may be unpaid if the employee can leave their work station. Employees must receive 32 hours of rest from work per calendar week.

Saskatchewan employee break laws

Employees working a shift of six hours or more must receive an unpaid meal break of at least 30-minutes within the first five working hours. Coffee and rest breaks are discretionary but if given, they must be paid.
Overtime is required for employees working more than eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.
UK employee break laws

What are the employee break laws in the U.K.?

In 1998 the U.K. implemented the Working Time Regulations that set out the number of hours an employee can work per week and the rest breaks every employee must be given. These include the number of hours between shifts and the minimum number of paid days off an employee can have each year.
The Working Time Regulations in the U.K. apply to a broader category than just employees. The U.K. regulations apply to ‘workers.’ This means that temporary and contract workers who are not employees of a company are also covered by the rules.
In the U.K. all workers are entitled to receive:
  • Paid annual leave: A set number of days off work that are paid by the employer
  • Rest breaks and limits on the overall amount of time they can work
  • A National Minimum Wage
  • No unlawful deductions from their wages
Because in the U.K. employment status is not always clear and because different categories of ‘workers’ are entitled to the same rights as fully-fledged employees, it’s best to stay cautious and treat all workers the same way.
What’s more, if you treat employees like two different classes of workers, even if you’re legally entitled to do so, it will end up in workplace dissatisfaction issues, which will then create as much as a problem as incorrectly categorizing your staff.
The law in the U.K. entitles workers to a minimum of a 20-minute break if their working day is more than six hours.
Like in the U.S., this break time must be:
  • A full, uninterrupted 20-minute break
  • Away from the employee’s workstation
  • During their working hours
  • Not be taken at the start or the end of the working day
  • Not overlap with their daily rest periods
When it comes to whether the short break time should be paid, there is no legal requirement to do so. However, the recommendation is that you should compensate employees for this mandatory break time.
Workers in the U.K. are also entitled to a minimum of 11 hours of rest per day. This means the minimum time between the end of one shift and the start of the next is 11 hours. Workers are also entitled to a minimum of 24 hours of uninterrupted rest every seven working days.
There is some flexibility with these rest periods and the 24 hours every seven days may also be replaced with two 24-hour periods or one 48-hour period every two working weeks.
This flexibility allows you to employ team members and workers during crucial and busy times, and have them work longer days than you usually would. Just as long as they receive a minimum of one uninterrupted 48-hour period of time off every two weeks.
All full-time employees in the U.K. are also entitled to 5.6 weeks of annual leave. This is 5.6 weeks of paid holiday time that must be allocated to an employee. If you employ part-time workers, they must receive paid annual leave at a pro-rata amount.

U.K. rest break rules for those under 18

If your company employs under-18s, which is legally allowed to do so long as you employ children aged over 16, there are additional rules you have to be aware of.
Under-18s are not allowed to work more than eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week.
Under-18s are also required to receive:
  • A short, 30-minute break if they work over four hours and 30 minutes in a day
  • 12 hours of rest between working times
  • Two rest days per week
UK labor laws breakdown

Breakdown of U.K. labor laws for employee breaks and rest periods

Below is a breakdown of any additional state labor laws for workers in the U.S

Scotland employee break laws

Self-employed business people are not mandated to abide by the Working Time Regulations 1998 but all part-time, full-time, freelance, and agency workers are required to abide by the regulations.
Overtime may be voluntary or compulsory and is defined as any working time above an employee’s normal working hours. In Scotland, there is no legal obligation to pay employees for any overtime undertaken. However, an employee’s rate of pay for the total amount of time they work - including overtime - must not fall below the National Minimum Wage.
Employers must take reasonable steps so that employees do not work more than 48 hours per week over a period of 17 weeks unless the employee has expressed written consent to be removed from limits on their working times.
Employers must keep records of the times their employees work.

Ireland employee break laws

Employees are entitled to a short 15-minute break when working for 4.5 consecutive hours. Employees working six consecutive hours are entitled to a 30-minute break and this break period may include the first 15 minutes. Any break given is not required to be paid and is not considered working time.

England employee break laws

Employees working more than six consecutive hours per day are entitled to an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes. This break is not required to be paid unless stated in an employment contract.

Wales employee break laws

Wales has no additional employee break laws above those called for in the Working Time Regulations 1998.
why track employee hours

Why tracking your employees’ work hours is important

With employee break laws varying so greatly across different locations, it’s vital that you track the hours your employees work and make sure you and your company remain compliant with various regulations and provisions. It is also important to stay compliant with time clock rules.
Tracking your employee’s work hours allows you to have an in-depth understanding of when they are working, and what they are working on. This means you have records of their breaks and downtime, and can track when employees qualify for overtime and are entitled to receive overtime benefits.
Tracking employee's work hours is required in many locations and must be done to comply with regulations.
Failure to track employee work hours may result in investigations and fines through your failure to provide accurate accounts of working hours and evidence of employees receiving the mandated break times.
Keeping an accurate record of when employees are working and when they are on breaks will also help you gain an understanding of if employees are truly being relieved of their work responsibilities during their breaks. This can help prevent any wage theft issues or challenges to remuneration amounts.
Tracking your employees’ work hours also has benefits that extend beyond remaining compliant with regulations.
Being able to understand exactly what hours your employees work, when they take their mandated breaks, and when and how often they work overtime means that you are able to gain a deep insight into availability and work patterns.
This will allow you to make changes to processes, employee hours, staffing structures, or routines to increase efficiency and reduce waste.
It will also allow you to accurately monitor and evaluate individual employee performance. Being able to monitor employee output against their hours can help you spot problems of inefficiency and waste and help you evolve company processes or ways of working to improve productivity.
Employees’ performance may also be tracked over time and then compared to their own historic performance or to that of the team.
how to track employee hours

How to track employee work hours

Software tools allow you to track employee work hours and break times efficiently, effectively, and comprehensively. By tracking time throughout the day, you can monitor when employees are working, how productive they are, and if break times are being taken as needed.
Time tracking apps allow you to monitor the exact breaks being taken by employees, whether these breaks are completely free from work and unpaid, or whether your employees are failing to take their required time away from work.
Time tracking software like Hubstaff works to track employee work hours right from a computer or mobile device. Hubstaff provides an exact breakdown of an employee’s work schedule and an overview of when, how long, and how efficiently they are working.
For employees who do not work from a computer, a software like Hubstaff allows you to create geofenced locations that automatically clock employees in and out and track the amount of time spent on a client or work site. For sales or field service teams, GPS tracking monitors their route and helps provide an overview of time spent on the road, at certain stops, and on breaks.
Implementing a time tracking tool makes it easier to see exactly when employees take their break times, and that their break times are compliant with regulations. With daily timesheets emailed to you, you can even spot overtime before it happens and make adjustments to schedules if needed.
What’s more, a good tool offers the ability to run and manage payroll from within the software. By using the time tracking feature to gather information about work patterns and productivity, you can then issue payments based on set rates and hours worked.

Start complying with employee break laws

With so many different employee break laws across various states, provinces, and regions, it’s vital to make sure you stay compliant.
To do so, familiarize yourself with the relevant rules and regulations for the places your employees work. Build out a framework or process for when employees will take their breaks, if these breaks will be paid, and if employees work overtime.
If you are required to keep records of employee working hours, establish a Dropbox, Google Drive, or Box filing system to keep records stored safely. Compliment these records with physical copies.
With a combination of time tracking software, an in-depth knowledge of the employee break laws and rest requirements for your various areas of work, and an improved understanding of how employee break laws work, your company will be set up for success.
Take the first step now by starting a trial with Hubstaff and monitoring your employee breaks, work activity and patterns to discover whether you are compliant with regulations.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Consult your own legal counsel should you have questions about the summaries of current legislation described here.
Want to learn more about paying employees? Read our holiday pay guide or all about travel time pay.
Important Notice: The information in this article is general in nature and you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs. Legal and other matters referred to in this article are of a general nature only and are based on Hubstaff’s interpretation of laws existing at the time and should not be relied on in place of professional advice. Hubstaff is not responsible for the content of any site owned by a third party that may be linked to this article and no warranty is made by us concerning the suitability, accuracy or timeliness of the content of any site that may be linked to this article. Hubstaff disclaims all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded) for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information contained in this article and any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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