This workbook has been prepared to assist employers and employees in understanding some of their obligations and rights under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and its regulations. It does not take the place of the ESA and its regulations and it should not be considered to offer any legal advice on your particular situation.
Most employees are entitled to an eating period (meal break) during their shift. The length and timing of the eating period is somewhat flexible, recognizing work demands. Meal breaks, whether paid or unpaid, are generally not considered working time and are therefore not typically counted toward the limits on hours of work, overtime pay or minimum wage. For more information, visit the “Eating Periods” section of the Hours of Work & Overtime Tool (available at Ontario.ca/ESAtools).
An employee must not work for more than five hours in a row without getting a 30-minute eating period free from work. However, an employer and employee can agree that the eating period can be split into two periods within every five consecutive hours. Together, these periods must total a minimum of 30 minutes. This agreement can be oral or in writing.
Meal breaks are unpaid unless the employee's employment contract requires payment. Even if the employer pays for meal breaks, the employee must be free from work during the eating period.
There is no requirement to give your employees coffee breaks or any other kind of break other than eating periods.
Time spent by an employee on a coffee break or other non-eating period break during which he or she is required to remain at the workplace is considered to be working time under the Employment Standards Act. If the employee is free to leave the workplace during the coffee break or other type of break, it is not considered to be working time.
Questions? Call the Employment Standards Call Centre at 1-800-531-5551