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Keeping breaks to a minimum

When it comes to offering breaks for employees you are probably already aware of the fact that the federal government actually has no say in what goes on. Basically what this means is that there is no federal law that requires you as a business owner to give your adult employees either rest periods or meal breaks during the day. But what might be surprising is the fact that only 19 states currently have laws that specifically require you to give your adult employees rest or meal breaks during an eight hour day. And only 7 states have a law that requires you to give your employees both a rest break and a meal break.

But even though the federal law does not require you to give your employees breaks during the day the Fair Labor Standards Act states that if you choose to give your employees rest periods, not meal breaks, during the work day than you must pay them for those breaks. In fact this Act also states that if you give your employee a meal period you must also pay them for that unless the meal break qualifies as a bona fide meal period.

A bona fide meal period actually qualifies as an unpaid break. These meal periods usually lasts at least 30 minutes, if not more. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor in order to qualify a meal break as a bona fide meal period the break needs to be a period of time set aside for a regular meal, and it must also be long enough to be able to eat. But in addition to that in order to qualify as a bona fide meal period the employee must also be relieved completely of their duties, meaning they cannot be actively or inactively working. But with a rest period they are actually considered work time so the employee has to get paid for it. These basically consist of coffee breaks and time for snacks and can last anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

But like most employers the problem that you might be facing if you do offer these paid breaks or if your state requires you to provide your employees with rest periods then you might have experienced your employees taking advantage of the breaks and stretching them out to long periods of time. So if this is the case then you might be wondering what you can do to help keep these types of breaks to a minimum.

One of the best things that you can do to keep your employees from taking advantage of these breaks is to make sure that you have in your policy manual the rules about these rest periods. You are also going to want to make sure that you include the consequences for not following the rules when it comes to the rest periods. And you want to make sure that if an employee does take advantage of the rest periods that you follow through on your end of the deal, which means they must pay the consequences.

When it comes to determining break policies employers often consider numerous factors to make sure they are choosing the best policies for their business. Here are some of the factors that go into determining break policies in various companies.

  • Any provisions existing in a negotiated agreement

  • The availability, convenience and distance of eating establishments

  • Whether employees must be present at work to fulfill their work requirements

  • Whether work must be performed on weekends, during overtime or at night

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