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Which paid and unpaid breaks does the employer have to grant to the employees?

The employer has the obligation to grant certain breaks, and article 4 of the decree lays down these breaks as well as the conditions which are attached to them.

  • One paid rest period of 15 minutes must be granted to the employee who works less than 7 hours, but 3 hours or more.
  • Two paid 15-minute periods are provided for the employee who works 7 hours or more.
  • The employee is also entitled to one paid 15-minute rest period per 3-hour work period beyond 7 hours.

Moreover, a meal break, not exceeding one hour, may be required by the employee after 5 consecutive hours of work. The latter is thus not obligatory if the employee does not request it. Thus, during night-work, many employees prefer not to have a meal break in order to finish earlier. Nevertheless, the employer has the right to establish the schedule of work, as well as the schedule of breaks and to include or not a non paid meal break, even if the employee does not request it. The duration of this break must however be reasonable: it should not exceed an hour, otherwise it could be a question of a disguised way to oblige the employee to ensure a presence in the workplace, without paying for it.

Attention! The meal period needs to be paid when the employee is not authorized to leave his work position or when the employer assigns the employee to work for a period of 12 hours or more (Article 4.01).

Also note that an employee who works 12 hours or more in a single day is entitled to a second meal period without pay not exceeding one hour.

For any problem regarding breaks, we invite you to contact an inspector in order to clarify the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties.