Can workers leave early instead of taking their break?
I understand that we must provide a 30 minute break for full-time workers, but is the worker obligated to take such a break? For example, if a worker requests to undertake their required hours and leave early, rather than extend their work day to accommodate an additional 30 minutes, can the employer agree to this arrangement?
Meal breaks are not specifically covered in the work health and safety legislation. The specific meal break requirements will be dealt with in any modern award or enterprise agreement your workers are covered by.
Under health safety legislation, however, employers have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the welfare of their workers. This includes ensuring that your workers receive adequate rest breaks in order to reduce the risk of fatigue.
Before you agree to the worker’s request, you should consider the provisions of the relevant modern award or enterprise agreement, as well as the impact that not having a rest break would have on the worker. In particular, you may wish to agree to the arrangement only on a conditional basis, i.e. the arrangement is subject to review if fatigue issues arise.