Tracking Breaks: How To Accurately Record Meal & Rest Breaks

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tracking meal breaks and rest breaks in 2023.
tracking breaks
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System
Time Tracking Fundamentals
Understanding Labor Laws
GPS Tracking
Tracking More Than Time
Time Tracking Benefits
Choosing A System
Implementing A System

Track Meal Breaks Accurately With Workyard

Do you want to take your business to the next level by boosting employee productivity? 

If so, tracking breaks can be the secret to unlocking your team’s potential.

To track breaks, you have to accurately record when employees take their breaks, and make sure that they’re taking the appropriate amount of time off during their shift.

But, why is tracking breaks important? 

For one, it’s the law. In most states, employers are required to provide their employees with a certain amount of meals and rest breaks depending on the length of their shift. If your business doesn’t comply with these laws, it can result in costly penalties or worse, legal action.

Secondly, tracking breaks helps increase employee productivity and job satisfaction. Research tells us that taking regular breaks can boost cognitive function, improve mood, and reduce fatigue. 

By ensuring that your employees take the breaks they need, you can help them perform better, and in turn, help your business grow. 

In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about tracking breaks.

Let’s get started!

Tracking Rest Breaks & Meal Breaks

When it comes to tracking employee breaks in the U.S., there are two main categories: rest breaks and meal breaks. 

Both types of breaks are crucial for employee health, productivity, and compliance with state laws. 

1. Rest Breaks

Rest breaks are short periods of time that allow employees to rest and recharge during their shifts.

These breaks can be paid or unpaid, depending on the employer’s policy and state laws.

Paid rest breaks are usually shorter in duration and are included in an employee’s regular work hours. For example, an employer might offer a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked. 

Unpaid rest breaks are typically longer and are not included in an employee’s regular work hours. These breaks are usually offered to employees who work longer shifts and need a bit more time to rest and recharge. 

Not all states require employers to provide rest breaks. 

However, if an employer chooses to offer rest breaks, they must comply with state laws for the frequency and duration of breaks. For example, California labor laws state employers must provide a paid 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. 

2. Meal Breaks

Meal breaks, also called lunch breaks, are longer periods of time off that allow employees to eat and take a break from work. 

These breaks are typically unpaid, and employees are free to leave the workplace during this time.

Again, not all states require employers to provide meal breaks, but if an employer chooses to offer them, they must comply with state laws. 

These laws can vary depending on the state, but they’re typically longer than rest breaks. For example, in California, employers must provide a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every 5 hours worked. In New York, employers must provide a 30-minute unpaid meal break for every 6 hours worked.

Who is Entitled to Meal Breaks & Rest Breaks?

When it comes to meal breaks and rest breaks, the rules vary depending on whether your employees are classified as exempt or nonexempt. Let’s check out the key differences:

Exempt Employees

Exempt employees are usually salaried and are not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

These employees are exempt from many state and federal labor laws, including meal and rest break laws. 

Still, some states do require employers to provide exempt employees with meal and rest breaks. In these states, the rules are typically more relaxed than for nonexempt employees. 

Nonexempt Employees

Nonexempt employees are paid hourly and they are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek under the FLSA. These employees are entitled to meal and rest breaks under state and federal law, which has varying requirements depending on the state that you’re in. 

Additionally, some states have different requirements depending on your industry. Take Oregon, for example, where nonexempt employees who work in manufacturing or food service are entitled to paid rest breaks.

As an employer, you should make it a priority to understand the entitlements of your employees and to comply with state and federal laws regarding meal and rest breaks.

Let’s dive into these laws a little more.

Federal Labor Laws on Tracking Breaks

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) 

The FLSA is a federal law that establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for employees in the private and public sectors. 

It does not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks for their employees

It does establish rules regarding how breaks should be tracked if they are provided.

FLSA Rules and Regulations

  • Employers are required to keep accurate records of the hours worked by their nonexempt employees, including any meal or rest breaks taken. Employers are required to track:
    • The start times of breaks
    • The end times of breaks
    • The total time spent on each break
  • Employers are required to compensate their nonexempt employees for any time spent working during their meal or rest breaks.
    • Ex: If an employee is required to answer a work-related phone call or respond to an email during their break, they must be paid for that time.

For more information on time tracking fundamentals, check out this article.

State Labor Laws on Tracking Breaks

As we mentioned, the FLSA does not require employers to provide breaks, so some states have created their own laws regarding meal and rest breaks. 

As an employer, you must comply with both federal and state laws.

Let’s take a look at some of the labor laws for a few of the most populous states in the U.S.

Note: Many states, such as Texas and Florida, have no state laws that require employers to provide meal breaks and rest breaks.

Meal Breaks
Rest Breaks
30 minutes for shifts over 5 hours; 1 hour for shifts over 10 hours.
10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
A retail worker in California working an 8-hour shift is entitled to one 30-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks.
No state requirement for meal breaks.
10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
A factory worker in Pennsylvania working a 10-hour shift is entitled to two 10-minute rest breaks.
New York
30 minutes for shifts over 6 hours.
10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
A fast food worker in New York working a 6-hour shift is entitled to a 30-minute meal break and a 10-minute rest break.
20 minutes for shifts over 7.5 hours.
10 minutes for every 4 hours worked.
A construction worker in Illinois working an 8-hour shift is entitled to a 20-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks.

Industry Laws on Tracking Breaks

Some industries have specific laws regarding meal and rest breaks and paid and unpaid breaks. 

Let’s look at the trucking industry as an example. The industry has its own set of rules for break tracking and compensation called the Hours of Service regulations. Within these regulations, commercial truck drivers are required to do the following:

  • Take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving, which must be taken off-duty and is not counted as part of the driver’s 14-hour workday. 
  • Take a 10-hour off-duty break after completing their shift.

Laws on Tracking Breaks by Industry

Break Regulations
In many states, healthcare workers are required to have at least a 30-minute uninterrupted break for every six hours worked.
A nurse working a 12-hour shift in California is entitled to two 30-minute meal breaks and two 10-minute rest breaks.
If a break is given, it must be paid if it is less than 20 minutes.
A cashier at a grocery store may be given a 15-minute paid break during a six-hour shift.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide a 15-minute break for every four hours worked.
A worker in a factory must take a 15-minute break during a four-hour shift.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving.
A long-haul truck driver must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight hours straight.
Food Service
In most states, employees are entitled to a 30-minute uninterrupted break for every six hours worked.
A waiter at a restaurant must take a 30-minute break during a six-hour shift.

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to do the following:

  • Understand the specific laws for your industry regarding break tracking and compensation
  • Learn both federal and state laws
  • Consult with organizations in your industry and legal professionals to make sure that you’re properly tracking and compensating your employees for their breaks

In addition to complying with industry laws, employers can also benefit from using time tracking software to help automate the tracking of breaks and rest easy knowing their employees’ compensation is accurate. Time tracking software can help employers avoid costly compliance errors and streamline their payroll processes.

Key Benefits of Tracking Breaks

Tracking breaks can bring tons of benefits to your business, for both employers and employees. 

Benefits for the Employer

Compliance with labor laws

Accurately tracking employee breaks can ensure that your business is compliant with the federal and state labor laws described above.

This way, you can avoid costly fines and legal issues.

Accurate records for conflict resolution

Accurately tracking employee breaks will help you resolve any conflicts related to missed breaks or improper compensation for time worked during breaks. 

Keeping accurate records will help you prevent any potential disputes and maintain a happy, positive, and healthy work environment for your employees.

Improved employee retention

Providing employees with enough break time will improve job satisfaction and help with employee retention.

Tracking breaks will allow you to take care of your employees by providing them with necessary breaks and helping them get the rest they need to perform their jobs effectively.

Increased productivity 

Employees who take regular breaks tend to be more focused and productive during their work time.

Benefits for the Employee

Improved health and productivity

Taking breaks is directly correlated with employees’ physical and mental health. Breaks help to prevent burnout, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.

During this time, employees recharge and refocus, leading to increased productivity and improved performance.

Improved workplace relationships

Taking breaks together also helps improve comradery in the workplace and fosters a positive work environment. When your employees enjoy leisure time together, it will lead to better collaboration, communication, and teamwork for your business.

Top Tools for Tracking Breaks 

Several tools are available to help employers track employee breaks. Let’s check out some of the most popular:

Time Tracking Apps

The best option for tracking employee breaks is a time tracking app, or time clock app

Time tracking apps can be used on mobile devices, making it easy for employees to clock in and out no matter where they are working, whether it’s in the field, in the office, or in a work-from-home setting.

Time tracking apps also provide employers with real-time data on employee hours worked and breaks taken, with an interface that is easy to use and efficient for collecting data.

With high integration with payroll software, time tracking apps make it simple for employers to calculate employee pay automatically, correct mistakes, and manage their payroll processes. 

Time Tracking Devices

Employees can use time tracking devices to clock in for their shift start, breaks, and end.

These devices shift the tracking process to employees rather than the employer, as they require manual action by the employee.

Many time tracking devices can also be integrated with payroll software, making it easier for employers to calculate employee pay.


Timesheets are another simple and effective tool for tracking employee breaks. 

As an employer, you can use timesheets to record the hours worked by each employee, including breaks taken. 

By using a timesheet, you can be sure that employees are taking the required breaks and getting the necessary rest during the workday. 

This will also help you to confirm that your calculations for employee pay are compliant with labor laws. 

Download our free timesheet template to try out timesheets.

How Workyard Can Help

Workyard is the most accurate construction time tracking software on the market. Some of its key features include: 

GPS time clock app

Workyard makes it easy for employees to log meals and rest breaks from any location in the field. 

With Workyard, your employees’ breaks are always accurately accounted for, which will help you prevent disputes related to missed or improperly compensated breaks.

A timer to remind your employees when it’s time to take a break

When we’re caught up with work, we can be forgetful. 

This feature helps to eliminate overworking and guarantees that your employees are getting the necessary rest to perform their jobs effectively. 

By staying on top of your employees’ breaks, productivity in your business will rise and you will reduce the risk of burnout and other health-related issues.

A real-time map of employees’ locations

You don’t even need to leave the office to confirm that everyone is where they are supposed to be and working as expected. This feature can also help you identify productivity issues and address them as needed.

Time tracking and payroll management tools

You can use Workyard to: 

  • Track employee hours worked
  • Manage payroll
  • Generate reports on employee productivity and labor costs. 

With this information at your fingertips, you can make informed decisions about your workforce.

Workyard’s user-friendly interface and intuitive design make it easy for employers and employees alike to use. The app can be downloaded on any mobile device, making it accessible from anywhere, at any time. 

With Workyard, you rest easy knowing that all meals and rest breaks will be accurately accounted for and that your business is compliant with federal and state labor laws.

The Bottom Line on Tracking Breaks 

As a business owner, there are several tools at your disposal for tracking employee breaks, including timesheets, time tracking devices, and time tracking apps. 

If you need a comprehensive solution for tracking employee breaks, Workyard offers an innovative time tracking app that includes a GPS time clock feature, real-time map view, and other time tracking and payroll management tools. 

With its user-friendly interface and intuitive design, Workyard makes it easy for employers to manage their workforce and maintain accurate records of employee hours worked and breaks taken.

Ultimately, tracking breaks is a necessary and key part of managing a workforce. By tracking meal and rest breaks, you can ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations, maintain a positive work environment, and improve employee retention and productivity. 

When your employees are well-rested, they are less likely to experience burnout and are more likely to be productive and engaged in their work.

With the right tools and approach, tracking breaks can be an easy and efficient process that benefits both employers and employees alike. Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today!

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