Fair Work is increasingly investigating businesses for failing to give workers compliant breaks, fining several operators tens of thousands of dollars in recent weeks. In one case, a laundry business was fined more than $20,000 after an Ombudsman probe found workers didn’t receive their proper entitlements. Another investigation saw a large business enter into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Commission, as a reward for self reporting the matter.
Previously, legal action over break rostering was largely confined to unions launching class actions aimed at large companies. These class actions aim to recuperate hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of thousands of workers, and are still before the courts. Unions received tip-offs from workers in these companies before starting the claims. However, Fair Work has now widened its investigations to include rostered breaks, putting the broader business community on notice.
Breaks are included in every Modern Award and Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, but can be notoriously complicated to understand and implement into a roster. Firstly, there are many different types of breaks – paid and unpaid, meal breaks, and rest breaks. Each of these have their own different lengths and entitlements, and can vary drastically across different industrial instruments. This makes it easy to confuse which break type applies.
Paid & Unpaid Breaks
These two breaks are pretty self explanatory – it’s just important you follow them to the letter of the law. Giving workers unpaid breaks when they’re entitled to paid breaks will result in pretty big fines.
Rest breaks are probably the most common type of break across Australia’s Award system. They are built-in rest breaks for employees that have worked for a certain amount of time. Usually these breaks are a little shorter than meal breaks – often 10 minutes after a few hours work and another break toward the end of a longer shift. The length varies depending on your Award so it’s important to check. Rest breaks are usually paid.
Meal breaks are longer than rest breaks and most of the time are not paid. Often sitting right in the middle of a shift, these will go for 30 to 60 minutes and allow an employee to rest and eat a meal. Importantly, if workers need to skip this break because of business operational reasons, they’re entitled to overtime rates for the remainder of their shift, or until the meal break has been taken.
How Do I Roster Breaks Correctly?
Businesses that roster breaks correctly typically spend a large amount of time getting across the complexities of break rules across different awards, and applying it to their rosters to ensure compliance. This often leads to non-compliance, as even small errors can leave businesses on the wrong side of the law. Recently, Tanda updated our software to include automatic breaks. This feature will automatically add the correct break length to shifts under an Award managed by Tanda, and ensure compliant breaks for every shift you roster. It also records breaks taken by employees for easy review should Fair Work launch an audit of your business.
How automatic breaks work
Each automatic break rule takes into consideration:
- What is the minimum shift length to receive the break?
- How long does the automatic break need to be?
- Is the break paid?
- Are staff required to clock the break?
When a shift meets the minimum length defined, breaks are automatically added to the shift upon creation.
If a break is set as unpaid, the break length will be deducted from the total rostered time.
If a break is set as paid, the total rostered time remains as is.
Automatic break rules and manual breaks are mutually exclusive, so creating a manual break on a roster will disable automatic break rules and remove them from the shift. Deleting the manual break will re-trigger the automatic breaks.
For a full explanation of how this new feature works, read our help guide here.