Taking breaks: their importance and impact

Breaks were one of the recurring themes at our Loblaw Member Forums in March. Here’s guidance from your Union Reps on the importance of taking your breaks and clarifications on what is required.

Everyone gets breaks through negotiated times found in your CBA. So, you may ask, “why this is an important topic to discuss?”

UFCW members need to see how not taking their negotiated breaks not only impacts themselves, but other members in their department.

In Manitoba, Employment Standards only requires you to be paid for a thirty-minute break after working 5 hours. Therefore, it is not a requirement for breaks to be paid by the employer for shifts less than that. What does that mean? Your paid fifteen-minute breaks are a negotiated benefit that typically gets scheduled to be taken at certain periods of your workday for shifts less than 5 hours. 

Not taking your breaks as scheduled puts others at risk of not getting their break on time or at all. Your needs are very different from others and your decision could interrupt the need to attend to their medical conditions, make them miss an opportunity to make appointments or something as simple as being able to say goodnight to a loved one.

This can and will raise the expectations from your employer of an extra fifteen minutes of work getting done when you are scheduled. Consider this: in 4 shifts, that is one hour given back to the company when they were going to pay you to not work (AKA take a break). Take that and add it up monthly, then yearly and consider what the company gains in free labour. That time, had everyone taken their breaks, could have meant more hours being available, it could mean someone may not need a second job because they could get more hours.

Don’t give up your entitlement to a break. Breaks are not something that can be refused to you or denied to you by management. This is a violation of your CBA and Employment Standards. They have to provide you with a break period. If you find yourself being denied your break, you should be reporting it to your Union Representative immediately to start the grievance process.  

We hope this provides some clarification or education. You’re entitled to your breaks. Having them paid is negotiated for you — don’t give that benefit back to the employer. Most importantly, your breaks can’t be refused so contact your Union Rep immediately if they are.