McDonalds recently made front page news in Australia for allegations of failing to provide its employees with paid rest breaks. The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) has lodged a Federal Court claim against the company and 323 of its operators after almost two years of investigations. A wage theft claim of at least $250 million for around 1000 current and former employees is being sought.

The SDA alleges McDonald’s breached the Fast Food Award by denying workers paid rest breaks, despite them being entitled to a 10-minute rest when working four hours or more. It’s also claimed this meant staff could not get a drink or even go to the toilet.

It’s important that employers understand the entitlements to breaks and provide their employees with the appropriate entitlements. Not only is a break an entitlement under Fair Work legislation it is also a WHS matter.

The following is a general guide only to paid and unpaid meal break entitlements. The relevant awards or agreements that cover your employees must be checked as different rules can apply and must be adhered to …. so you don’t end up in hot water!

 Entitlements Guide

Number of Hours WorkedRest Break (paid)Meal Break (unpaid)
Less than 4 hoursNo rest breakNo meal break
4+ hours but less than 5 hours1 x 10 minute rest breakNo meal break
5+ hours but less than 7 hours1 x 10 minute rest break1 x 30 – 60 minute
meal break
7+ hours but less than 10 hours1 x 10 minute rest break up to 8 hours then
2x 10 minute rest breaks: One taken in the first half of the shift
and another taken in the second half of the shift
1 x 30 – 60 minute
meal break
10+ hours2x 10 minute rest breaks: One taken in the first half of the shift
and another taken in the second half of the shift
2 x 30-60 minutes
meal breaks

What happens if a meal break can’t be taken?

In most cases you will be required to pay overtime at 200% of the minimum hourly rate from when the meal break should have commenced until such time as the meal break can be taken. The relevant award or enterprise agreement will provide the specifics and must be checked.

What about other breaks?

There are many other types of breaks to which employees are entitled. These include breaks between shifts, annual leave, long service leave and public holidays.

If you need assistance to determine what breaks apply and when, contact us for a copy of our Fact Sheet on “Employee Break Entitlements”. Call us  at 1300 287 360 or emailing If you prefer a confidential discussion with one of our directors, click or scan below to book a time to discuss your needs.

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