Conditions of Employment

Meal Intervals

By André Claassen

 

Basic Conditions of Employment Act

Section 14:  Meal intervals

 

1.   An employer must give an employee who works continuously for more than five hours a meal interval of at least one continuous hour.

 

2.   During a meal interval the employee may be required or permitted to perform only duties that cannot be left unattended and cannot be performed by another employee.

 

3.   An employee must be remunerated:

 

a.)  for a meal interval in which the employee is required to work or is required to be available for work; and

b.) for any portion of a meal interval that is in excess of 75 minutes, unless the employee lives on the premises at which the workplace is situated.

 

4.   For the purposes of subsection (1), work is continuous unless it is interrupted by an interval of at least 60 minutes.

 

5.    An agreement in writing may:

 

a) reduce the meal interval to not less than 30 minutes;

b) dispense with a meal interval for an employee who works fewer than six hours on a day.

 

Commentary

This section makes provision for the employee to have a meal break.

 

It states that after five hours continuous work, the employee must be given a meal interval of at least one continuous hour, which may be reduced to 30 minutes by agreement between employer and employee.

 

The section does not mean that immediately upon completion of five hours continuous work, the employee must be given a meal break. It merely states that after five hours continuous work he must be given a meal break - it does not state at what stage after the five hours continuous work, or how long after the five hours continuous work, the meal break must be given. It means that at some stage after the 5 hours has been worked, he must be given a meal break.

 

Presumably then, such arrangements are left to be negotiated between employer and employee.

 

Provision is also made that an employee may be required to work during his meal break, but only on work that cannot be left unattended, or cannot be done by another employee.

 

If he does work during the meal break, he must be remunerated for it, presumably at his normal rate of pay. The act is unclear on whether the meal break should be remunerated at normal rate of pay or at overtime rates. My guess would be that if working during the meal break does push the employee into overtime, then he should be remunerated for it at overtime rates.

 

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