Your employees are only human, and they need time to relax and recharge. This applies for any work day, and you should be offering your workers a certain amount of time to have lunch and take short breaks. Your employees will enjoy a little bit of down time, and you will enjoy greater employee efficiency because they will come back to their desks ready to work. Because there is no federal law concerning breaks, make sure you read up on what your state’s laws are regarding taking breaks during work.
A meal break at the middle of a shift for lunch is the most common break your employees are going to want. As long as someone works five to eight consecutive hours for you, they are legally obligated in 21 states to have a 30-minute break for a meal. Naturally, even if someone is working a night shift that is five to eight hours in length, they are still permitted to have a break to eat a meal in the middle of it.
Some companies will pay their employees during a meal break while others do not. There are a few items to bear in mind if you are trying to figure out if you need to compensate your employees for this break. First, the break needs to be a minimum of 30 minutes. Anything less than that will be considered a standard rest break. Additionally, the meal break needs to be uninterrupted. That means the employee has gone away from the desk, equipment or cash register to take a meal. If an employee simply eats at his or her desk and takes phone calls during lunch, then he or she would still be entitled to pay because that worker is technically eating while working. Encourage your workers to get away from their work station during lunch so that you do not find yourself in any legal troubles.
As surprising as it may seem, only a few states have laws that make it mandatory for employers to give their workers rest breaks throughout the day. These states include:
Vermont and Minnesota only have laws stating that employees have to be given time off throughout the day to use the restroom. For the most part, many states do not have anything on the books regarding standard rest breaks. Every state is different, and you should look up the laws for the state you do business in to make sure you are on the right side of the law.
Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to offer your employees anywhere between a five- and 20-minute break for every four hours of work. This is time that can be spent grabbing a cup of coffee, going to the restroom or simply stretching. While workers can use designated breaks to go to the restroom, if they need to go outside of that break, you need to let them go. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states that all employers must have restroom facilities on the premises for employees to use any time. Unfair restriction cannot be placed on going to the bathroom.
However, even if your state does not require you to give breaks, it can still be exceptionally good business practice to do so. If you work your employees to the bone, eventually they are going to tire out. They may not be as productive if they are starving or if they are tired from staring at a computer screen for eight hours straight. Your employees may even look for work elsewhere if they feel like they will be treated better, so offering breaks is something that is ultimately for your benefit.
Regardless of what your state has as law, offering meal and rest breaks will reinvigorate your employees to work at their best.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.