Know which breaks are mandated for employees

posted in: HR Advice | 1

Iowa law does not mandate paid breaks, for the most part

Everyone likes a break from work from time to time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are legally entitled to have one.

While some states have rules that mandate paid breaks per a certain number of hours worked, Iowa does not, according to Iowa Workforce Development. Employers do not have to pay for breaks when the employee is completely relieved of job duties, and the employer can require the employee to stay on premises during any breaks he or she may receive.

The only requirements, by law, that Iowa employers have to follow, according to Workforce Development, are to give anyone younger than 16 a 30-minute break if they work five or more hours in a day and to allow all employees restroom breaks as needed.

Union employees may receive other breaks as detailed in their union agreement, and certain categories of workers such as truck drivers and airline pilots may be entitled to mandatory breaks by regulatory agencies.

The Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law that oversees wages and hourly work requirements, does not require employers to provide any meal break or rest break for their workers.

However, when it comes to paid breaks, employers usually do not pay for meal breaks 30 minutes or longer, but rest breaks of five to 20 minutes are usually considered hours worked and are compensated, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA suggests break policies be part of an overall policy manual and explained to employees. Policies should cover situations where employees take unauthorized breaks or conduct business while on an unpaid meal break.

Even though rest breaks may not be required by law in Iowa, human resources experts say it is a good practice.

Giving employees brief rest breaks throughout the day can increase their productivity and help them better focus and process information, according to, a company that provides software, as well as human resources, payroll and employee management tips to small businesses. Employees start underperforming because they’ve stopped paying attention and their brain needs a break.

Some employees will feel guilty taking a break, even if it is encouraged by management, so suggests these ideas:

• Provide healthy snacks for employees and encourage them to take a break to get something to eat.

• Take the team out for lunch and promote nonwork discussion.

• Offer guided or individual meditation for employees. Meditation can decrease stress and improve memory and the ability to stay on task longer. ♦

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