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Meal and rest breaks

Meal and rest breaks

The entitlement to meal and rest breaks is embedded within industrial awards and enterprise agreements, and include the length of the break and in some cases, when the breaks are to be taken.

Access to meal and rest breaks is not just good industrial practice, it is a matter of health and safety at work.  There are OHS laws to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace – employers have a duty of care to provide as far as is reasonably practicable a safe working environment that will not adversely affect the health and wellbeing of employees.

It is the employer’s and manager’s responsibility to ensure that rest and meal breaks are provided, to reduce employee fatigue and reduce the risk of adverse effects of fatigue on patient care.

What is a meal break entitlement?

You are entitled to an unpaid meal break of not less than 30 minutes. In most agreements you are entitled to leave the work area, facility or workplace during your break without being required to be available for recall or advice.  Where 12-hour shifts are in place, differing break arrangements are in place to ensure access to adequate rest periods.

My employer has directed me not to leave the ward or my workplace during my meal break in case I am required to be available. Is this permitted and am I entitled to be paid for this time? 

If you are required by your employer to be available for recall or advice during the rostered meal interval, or you are directed not to leave the ward or facility, you must be paid for your meal break at the ordinary rate plus 50 per cent (public sector).

I can’t remember the last time I had a meal break, due to my workload. What should I do?

You are entitled to have rest and meal breaks when you are working a shift. If you are having trouble arranging or taking appropriate meal and rest breaks, you should raise this matter with your manager or immediate supervisor.

What is a tea/rest break entitlement?

Depending on shift length, you are generally entitled to two paid 10 minute breaks each shift at a time that is suitable to your employer and counted as time worked. With agreement, these breaks may be combined into one 20-minute rest/tea break.

Members should check their EBA or award for their exact entitlement. If you are unable to resolve a concern about your breaks, you can contact ANMF Member Assistance for advice by submitting a member assistance inquiry form