What Employers Should Know About Breaktime Hours, LegallyJan Cankusic
Break the silence! The average worker works 7.8 hours a day in the workplace. Some people work 10 hours or more every day, going long stretches of time without taking breaks. If you want a healthy and happy workforce, you need to provide breaktime hours.
However, you can’t just give any hours you want. You must follow a number of rules and regulations and find policies that work best for your business needs.
How do federal and state laws affect rest breaks? How many industries have internal regulations related to rest breaks? What should you do to keep track of breaks and communicate your rules with your employees?
Answer these questions and you can develop perfect break rules for years to come. Here is your quick guide.
There are no federal break rules. You are not required to offer breaks during work hours for any purpose, including lunch or medical appointments.
According to the Department of Labor, federal law considers short breaks to be compensable work hours. Regardless of what your employees take a break for, a break of 5 to 20 minutes counts as part of the sum of hours worked. It counts toward overtime and hourly payments.
Unauthorized extensions of breaks do not count if you specify the amount of time for the break. If you say a break will last 15 minutes and an employee takes 20 minutes, you may punish the employee for taking a longer break.
The Department of Labor also says that meal periods do not count as work time. You do not have to compensate your employees for taking 30 minutes to eat lunch.
OSHA requires companies to allow employees to take bathroom breaks. You cannot force employees to schedule their bathroom breaks. You can locate bathrooms close to where your workers are so they don’t waste time walking to and from the bathroom.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires you to provide workers with disabilities with reasonable accommodations. This may include breaks so workers can check their blood sugar levels, catch their breath, or take medication. Talk to your employee and develop a procedure so they can take the breaks they need.
Every state has its own laws about break times. The laws vary wildly from state to state, with some states like Michigan having no laws at all while others have very specific laws. You must look at your state’s laws with an employment lawyer and draft policies that follow them to the letter.
Many state laws apply to minors. Employees under the age of 16 are usually given breaks for at least 30 minutes, especially if they work for five hours straight. They can use their breaks to eat or do other things.
Many states also protect people who work long shifts. After 5 or 8 hours, an employee can take a rest or meal break.
Regulations may apply to non-exempt employees only. These are employees who earn hourly wages or a small amount of money every week. See if you hire non-exempt employees and figure out what the rules are about them.
No state requires you to use technology to monitor breaks. But you can use any technology you want, including online employee time-tracking software.
You are also not required to give breaks for specific purposes, like smoke breaks and coffee breaks. It is up to employees to decide how they will use their time.
Some industries impose regulations on rest breaks to fill in gaps left by state and federal laws. The transportation industry has hours-of-service regulations that include specified break times.
A driver who carries property must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of consecutive driving. They cannot drive for longer than 14 hours on any given day unless they are in an emergency. During their 10 hours off-duty, they can sleep, eat meals, and attend to their personal life.
Several states have bills to protect domestic workers. Each bill is different, but most domestic workers who work full-time are given one day off during the week. They may receive overtime if they work during their time off.
Nursing mothers, regardless of where they work, are allowed to have breaks so they can nurse their babies. You must give them a private location that is not a bathroom so they can do this. However, you are not required to pay them during these breaks.
Union agreements can also affect scheduling breaks. Some unions have reached agreements with employers about unpaid and paid breaks. You may need to provide a 30-minute unpaid lunch break around noon as well as two paid 15-minute breaks throughout the day.
Review your union agreements and see what terms are in them. Remain in touch with union leaders so you can understand what they want and determine how you can satisfy their needs.
Make sure your employee handbook specifies what your regulations for break times are like. Print out or email a copy to each employee and union representative. You should also print out posters describing your rules and place them in break areas.
Regulations on Breaktime Hours
Breaktime hours are trickier than they seem. The federal government and most states do not require companies to give long breaks. You must give bathroom breaks and breaks for medical reasons, but you do not have to pay employees during these times.
Some industries have strict rules about breaks. The key to following all regulations is to research relevant laws and talk to your employees. Be clear on what your policies are so unions don’t get upset.
Use technology to help you keep track of breaks. TimeTrak Systems provides premium employee time-tracking tools. Contact us today.