Skip to main content


Meal and Rest Break Considerations and Sample Policy

January 26, 2023 13885

Employer considerations:

  1. It is the employer’s responsibility to communicate the meal and rest break laws to employees in writing.
  2. Employers are required to provide and encourage employees with rest breaks but are not required to ensure they are taken. Employers are required to provide employees with meal breaks AND ensure they are taken. Employees should be discouraged from performing off-the-clock work during rest or meal breaks.
  3. Employees should be required to record the beginning and ending times of their meal breaks. The timekeeping system should record the actual hours of the employees' meal breaks (no rounding). 
  4. The employee may waive his or her meal period if the day’s work will be completed in no more than six hours, provided you and the employee mutually consent to the waiver. It is a best practice to have this waiver in writing, but it is not required. 
  5. Since the rest break time is paid, the employee does not need to clock out. However, employers may want to consider having their timekeeping records reflect that the rest break was provided to the employee.
  6. Regularly audit your timecard records to determine whether employees are accurately reporting time and/or if there is a pattern of employees working through breaks.
  7. Educate scheduling coordinators and managers about their obligations relating to meal and rest breaks and discipline those who do not follow policy. Train employees not to interrupt employees during breaks.
  8. Inform employees that they should notify their employer or manager if they have been denied the opportunity to take a meal or rest break. Employees should not be required to report this only to their direct supervisor, as it may be the supervisor who is discouraging them from taking the break.
  9. Properly document missed meal and rest breaks.
  10. According to the Department of Industrial Relations, an employee’s meal break should be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work (i.e., no later than the start of the employee’s sixth hour of work). However, waiting to provide the meal break that late in an employee’s shift can create other challenges with providing the appropriate rest period before the end of an eight-hour shift. CDA, therefore, recommends that meal breaks be provided no later than four hours and 59 minutes after the workday starts. 
  11. Employees who are not provided a meal or rest break or are prevented from taking a meal or rest break are entitled to a missed meal or rest break premium of an additional one hour of pay for each incident (The maximum penalty for missed meal breaks and missed rest breaks is two hours of pay per day, no matter how many meal or rest breaks were missed in the day). The additional time should be provided to the employee on the next regularly scheduled payroll date. Premium wages for rest and meal periods – known as “rest and meal break violations” – are considered “wages” under California law. Employers who fail to include any unpaid premiums on their employee paystubs or payment of final wages could be subject to steep fines and penalties.
  12. Employers must provide employees uninterrupted time, relieve their employees of all duties during required rest periods and relinquish any control over how employees spend their break time.
  13. Employees may not be prohibited from leaving the premises. 
  14. Consistently discipline employees who do not return from breaks within the required time. This is a disciplinary issue, not a pay issue. You still need to pay them appropriately.
  15. Should an employee’s time be interrupted, employers may reasonably reschedule a rest period when the need arises.
  16. Such circumstances should be “the exception rather than the rule.” If a rest period is interrupted, an employer can provide another rest period to replace the interrupted one or pay the premium pay of one additional hour of pay for the missed rest break.

For more information on meal and rest break laws visit California Department of Industrial Relations

CDA has developed a downloadable sign that you can print and place in an area of your practice where employees are most likely to see it.

It is an employer's responsibility to have these specific policies in place. Vague or misunderstood policies put your practice at risk.

Comments are only visible to subscribers.