10-20-30 Minute Rest Breaks

“I thought rest breaks were 10 minutes but my employees are saying they should get 15 minutes. Who is right?”

Your HR Survival Tip

You are right; the paid rest breaks are 10 minutes. However, legal decisions have been made requiring you to review your rest break policy.

The California Supreme Court made it clear that employers cannot control what an employee does on their rest breaks or where they go. The employer must relinquish all control over the employee during the rest break. This means absolutely no work whatsoever is allowed during the rest break and you say nothing about how they choose to use their break time. Old policies stated employees needed to stay on-site during their rest breaks because, really, where can you go and return within 10 minutes? This Court decision is not focused on where they go, it’s all about you not telling the employee what they can do during that time.

What you can, and should, control is the length of the rest break. Make it clear to employees that they should be ready and in place to begin working again as soon as their 10 minutes are up. We hear about employees making off-site coffee runs frequently during rest breaks and they don’t return for 20-30 minutes. That’s time lost, which equals money and productivity lost because these are paid rest breaks.

California’s Labor Commissioner has updated their language regarding timing. They state the employee should have a “net” 10 minutes for a rest break. Basically, this means if it takes the normal employee 6 minutes to get to the break room, that 6 minutes doesn’t count toward their rest break time… the rest break clock starts when they get there. Most of you don’t have employees walking great distances to take a break but keep this in mind.

Set your policy and ensure your employees follow it by coming back on time. You might also pay attention to the location you’ve provided for employees to take their breaks. Perhaps something a bit closer to their work area or with better coffee machines might be in order.

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