Is there any specific law regarding the lunch period for employees? I am about to start my own retail store where I have four personnel. I want to know the exact legal rule on the length of lunch breaks that I should give to my employees to comply with labor laws. Thank you in advance for your advice.
The answer to your concern is found in the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code of the Philippines which specifically provides for the mandatory duration for meal periods. According to this rule:
Section 7. Meal and Rest Periods. — Every employer shall give his employees, regardless of sex, not less than one hour time-off for regular meals, except in the following cases when a meal period of not less than 20 minutes may be given by the employer provided that such shorter meal period is credited as compensable hours worked of the employee:
(a) Where the work is non-manual work in nature or does not involve strenuous physical exertion;
(b) Where the establishment regularly operates not less than sixteen (16) hours a day;
(c) In case of actual or impending emergencies or there is urgent work to be performed on machineries, equipment or installations to avoid serious loss which the employer would otherwise suffer; and
(d) Where the work is necessary to prevent serious loss of perishable goods.
Rest periods or coffee breaks running from five (5) to twenty (20) minutes shall be considered as compensable working time. (Book III, Rule I)
As mentioned above, employees are entitled to a regular meal period of not less than one (1) hour. Should you provide your employees a meal period that is less than one (1) hour, you will be required to provide compensation for the employees during the said shortened meal period as part of their working hours.
In addition to this, the law also recognizes situations wherein the duration of a meal period can be less than one (1) hour but not shorter than twenty (20) minutes. This arrangement is applicable only if the nature of the work and the working conditions are among those described in the abovecited law. And even during this shortened meal period, the employees must be compensated since this will still be part of their working hours.
In summation, an employee is legally entitled to be given a non-compensable meal period of not less than one (1) hour. Any meal period less than one (1) hour, subject to the aforementioned conditions, will entitle the employee compensation since it will be considered as a part of an employee’s working hours.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org