The length of a worker’s lunch break

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My family has been operating a medium-sized factory. Recently, we had a dispute with some of our employees because of the length of their lunch time. We are currently implementing a 45-minute lunch period but some of the employees are complaining about this. We think this lunch period is reasonable for the kind of work that they do. We’d like to know if there are any laws providing for the proper length of lunch periods that we might be violating. We hope for your advice. Thanks!
Ronnel

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Dear Ronnel,
Your question primarily deals with an employee’s meal period to which the law specifically provides for a mandatory duration.

According to the Implementing Rules of the Labor Code of the Philippines:

Section 7. Meal and Rest Periods. — Every employer shall give his employees, regardless of sex, not less than one (1) hour time-off for regular meals, except in the following cases when a meal period of not less than twenty (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)

This cited law clearly indicates that employees are entitled to a regular meal period of not less than one hour. And should the said meal period be less than one hour, the employer is bound to provide compensation for the employee during the said shortened meal period.

The law also recognizes situations wherein the duration of a meal period can be less than one hour but not shorter than twenty minutes. However, this arrangement is applicable only if the nature of the work and the working conditions are among those described in the above-cited law. And even during this shortened meal period, the employees must be compensated.

Therefore, your factory’s implementation of a 45-minute meal period is legal if the employees are compensated during the said meal period and if the nature of their work is among those enumerated above. Otherwise your factory’s period policy is contrary and in violation of Philippine labor laws.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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