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There really is no such thing as a free lunch

The New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board recently decided that an employee was entitled to a paid lunch break because he was working on a boat which not only prevented him from leaving the “worksite” for his lunch break, but also left him operating the boat during his lunch and effectively, under the control of the employer. In general the Board considered whether the employee was required to remain at the workplace during “lunch break” and the employer’s degree of control during the break.

Most employers will have policies regarding whether lunch breaks are paid or unpaid, however, this recent decision suggests that a simple “paid” or “unpaid” policy may not be sufficient under employment standards legislation.

Employment standards legislation in all provinces and territories generally provide employees with meal breaks of at least 30 minutes (1 hour in Newfoundland and Labrador) after working five consecutive hours (6 hours in Saskatchewan). No province or territory requires meal breaks to be paid with the following exceptions: British Columbia and Yukon Territory require employers to pay employees for meal breaks if they are required to be available for work during the break; Nunavut’s legislation states that employees shall not be required to work during the meal break; Prince Edward Island and Quebec require meal breaks to be paid if the employee is not able to leave the place of employment (PE) or workstation (Quebec).

So, with some provinces and territories recognizing “employer-controlled” meal breaks as paid time, and with New Brunswick now interpreting its legislation in the same way, employers should review their meal break policies in the context of the specific working conditions of its employees to ensure that employees who are not afforded a genuine “break” from the workplace and/or their job responsibilities during an unpaid break are fairly compensated. Employers may wish to modify such meal break policies to clearly state that employees who are required to remain at the workplace or who are still under some control of the employer are entitled to paid meal breaks.

*with information from HRinfodesk

If you want to know more about the rules surrounding lunch/meal breaks, please consult the following First Reference publication, The Human Resources Advisor, Ontario, Western or Atlantic Editions. To know how to draft a Lunch/meal break policy, and cover all your bases, consult the Human Resources PolicyPro, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba & Saskatchewan, Ontario, Atlantic Editions.

Michele Glassford
Editor of Human Resources PolicyPro
published by First Reference Inc.

Michele Glassford

President and Managing Editor at DRH and Lawyer at MacKinnon Law Associates
Michele Glassford, is a lawyer, researcher and policy analyst with a background in employment and labour law.In addition to a part-time law practice in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Michele has worked in the field of labour adjustment for the Health Sector Training and Adjustment Program and has been a Researcher for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Michele also holds the position of President and Managing Editor at D.R. Hancocks & Associates Inc., author of the Human Resources PolicyPros. Read more
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