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Employee breaks

We have a time clock policy that allows a 15 minute break. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. It is also stated in our time clock policy. When an employee asks to take their break, can we not authorize it? We have some employees who take advantage of this break, leaving when no one is able to cover their position or even when we are not busy.

There is no law in Mississippi that an employer must give rest breaks to workers. If you do choose to grant rest breaks, as the employer you set the policies surrounding them. It is smart to grant rest breaks, because they have been shown to increase productivity. However, you have the right to control when an employee takes his or her break. This does not in any way violate the policy in your handbook.

(Your email address leads us to believe you are in Mississippi. If you are in CAlifornia, Colorado, Kentucky, Minnisota, Nevada, Oregon or Washington, those states do have laws that require an employer to give rest breaks to most employees. However, even in those states you have the right to schedule the rest breaks at your convenience, within limits.)

Under OSHA worker safety regulations, you must permit employees to use the toilet when nature calls, and you have very limited ability to control the timing, under OSHA policies. But we will assume you are not talking about bathroom breaks in this question.

As an employer, you can dictate when a worker takes his or her rest break. You can inform an employee ahead of time that she will be taking her break at 9:15 am. Or, you can wait until there is a lull in business and send an employee on break. You do not have to allow groups of employees to take their breaks at the same time. You can send just one or two employees on break at a time.

You can require that an employee request his break and wait until someone is available to relieve him.

Our recommendation is that you set new policies for breaks, that will ensure adequate coverage for your business. Send a written memo to employees, informing them of the new policy and the date it begins. Then, enforce the policy uniformly, and discipline or terminate any employee who violates it.

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This entry was posted on Friday, August 19th, 2011 at 2:24 pm and is filed under
Performance Management.
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4 Responses to “Employee breaks”

  1. Teresa Kingdom Says:

    Can an employer dictate where an employee spends his/her break, for instance can they take a smoke break on neighboring property?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Teresa! Yes, an employer can require that employees remain on the premises during rest breaks in any state. An employee who leaves the property can be disciplined or fired.If the employer allows workers to leave the property, generally the employer cannot limit where the employee goes. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Ciagnik Ursus Says:

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  4. hrlady Says:

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