Meal breaks – do you know your obligations?

By Charles Power on April 24th, 2017
  1. Industrial Instruments
  2. Modern Awards

It’s an everyday occurrence but do you actually know your specific duties relating to providing your employees with a meal break?

We get a lot of helpdesk questions about it so today I thought it might be useful to send out a reminder – because it’s often the little things that become big problems when ignored.

So here we have a question and answer that was sent into our Helpdesk service from a subscriber, read on…


I would just like to clarify meal break requirements under the Fair Work Act. I have heard different claims, e.g. a requirement to have a meal break after 5 hours except in certain circumstances. Are there minimum statutory break entitlements in the FW Act?

Also, does a 15-minute morning tea beak constitute a break or must there still be a lunch break after no more than 5 hours of work including the morning tea break?


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The entitlement to a 30-minute meal break is not provided in the Fair Work Act. Modern awards generally include provisions for meal breaks (some of these are for paid meal breaks if the employee is required to work for more than 5 hours after being given an unpaid meal break) so you can check your specific award.

The standard across the board though, is to provide any employee who works more than 5 hours with an unpaid meal break of a minimum of 30 minutes. Unpaid meal breaks are not included in calculations of an employee’s ordinary hours of work.

Remember, if you are a non-national system employer in WA, you are obliged to recognise minimum statutory entitlements to meal breaks.

Note: There is no statutory entitlement to tea breaks. You need to check the applicable award to see what if any provision is made for this. Tea or rest breaks are generally paid breaks.


There is so much to know about employees entitlements that a bulletin – or two – won’t give us enough space to provide all the necessary answers to the questions you must have.

The quickest and simplest solution is to subscribe to the Employment Law Practical Handbook. With more than 70 chapters dedicated to covering every aspect of employment law, we know you’ll find all the answers you need to keep your workers happy while meeting your legal obligations.

Don’t delay, subscribe today on an obligation-free trial and see for yourself!

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