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LEGISLATIVE INTERPRETATIONS

OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT

Food & Rest Period – Remain on premises

Topic: Food & Rest Period – Remain on premises Issued by: Director, Compliance and Regulatory Review
Statute: Regulation 91-191 Date Issued: December 11, 1998
Section: 8 Date Revised: August 10, 2020

8 An employer shall allow an employee at least one-half hour for food and rest after each five consecutive hours of work.

Question:
If an employer pays an employee for a meal break period, can the employer insist that the employee remain at the work premises during the break? Can the employer insist that the employee remain at the work premises during the break if the break is not paid?

Answer:
The break period is intended to provide an employee with time for food and rest. The employee is expected to be relieved of their duties during that time. WorkSafeNB does not specify whether it is a paid or an unpaid break. The issue of payment is to be determined between the parties.

An employee who is on a break would normally be free to leave the premises, unless there is an agreement between the employees (or union) and the employer that the employee remain at the workplace during the rest period and may occasionally be called on to assist at work during that rest period. However, this should not be used by an employer to routinely have employees work through their break.

Nothing in this interpretation limits an employer’s authority to manage rest periods in light of operational requirements, provided that the rest period is not delayed for longer than the legislated five-hour maximum period.

While the employer is obliged to provide the break, the wording of the section permits an employee to waive the break, if they prefer. There are situations where, if an unpaid break extends the employee’s shift by half an hour, the employee may prefer to work through the break and get off half an hour earlier.

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