Lifting the (lunchbox) lid on paid breaks

Tuesday May 10, 2022

With news that both McDonald’s and the Commonwealth Bank are facing claims of serious workplace rights contraventions over break times, now’s the time to check you’re adhering to regulations!

In a statement of claim lodged by the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) against McDonald’s, it’s claimed workers were not given their paid 10-minute breaks. The union alleges a “serious contravention” of workplace rights that were part of a “systematic pattern of conduct”.

SDA say 350 workers are involved in the Federal Court action, with the union seeking $100 million in back pay. Employees were allegedly told their breaks were cumulated over their shifts, with each drink or toilet stop counting towards a break time.

Meanwhile, the union for finance and banking workers has launched Federal Court action against the Commonwealth Bank for allegedly failing to allow its retail branch staff their 10-minute rest breaks during their shift.

Workers are entitled to a paid 10-minute tea break three hours into their shift and another after five hours on top of their unpaid 45-minute lunch break, according to the Finance Sector Union (FSU).

The union estimates the claim is worth at least $45 million and affects about 3,000 workers. The FSU is calling for the $45 million to be repaid to affected workers.

A previous survey conducted by the FSU of National Australia Bank (NAB) employees found that 93% worked overtime without additional pay, with the majority reporting that it led to health problems.


Employers have an obligation under the Workplace Health and Safety Act to ensure that employees are safe at work. To ensure a safe workplace for the employee mentally, rest breaks are required.

Additionally, an employee’s employment or enterprise agreement may also set out the employer’s obligation to offer employees rest breaks.

Employees are entitled to set paid breaks depending on the number of hours they have worked. Employment agreements outline the minimum amount of time off allowed during a shift, with each industry having different minimum break requirements.

As an employer, it’s important to understand what rest breaks your employees are entitled to. If you have any questions or need any assistance, please reach out to the HR Dept.

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