Employees are entitled to rest and meal breaks which:
- give them a reasonable chance during their work period to rest, refresh and take care of personal matters, and
- are appropriate for the length of time they have worked for the employer.
However there are no specific rules for how long, or when, rest and meal breaks should be. Employers and employees should bargain in good faith over the timing and length of breaks.
Common practice is that rest breaks are 10–15 minutes long and meal breaks at least 30 minutes long, but these times vary across industries and occupations. If an employee is unsure what general practice in their industry is, he or she can check with their industry association or union.
Employers should pay for rest breaks but are not required to pay for meal breaks.
An employee and employer can agree to compensation instead of breaks. However employers must compensate employees if no break is given where a break would be appropriate.
There are no set rules as to what appropriate compensation is but where provided it must be reasonable. Compensation is reasonable if of similar value to the break.
Employers must provide appropriate breaks and facilities for employees with babies who wish to breastfeed or express breast milk, where this is reasonable and practicable. These are unpaid breaks unless the employer agrees otherwise.