Today’s WFM schedule management tools help ensure your teams follow all company and governmental guidelines regarding breaks and meals. Plus, rest periods help workers stay focused and maximize productivity.
Ever had an employee tell you they want to skip lunch? Or have a manager suggest you skip a break? Or my favorite – when a worker says that they will just eat at their desk while they work through lunch. Employees are not always aware of why lunch periods and breaks are important for their health and well-being. In general, research has found that taking lunches and breaks allow a worker to recharge so when they come back to their task they stay more focused. To the surprise of many, lunches have been found to increase productivity. To some it may seem that the employee wanting to skip breaks or lunch is more likely to be productive, but research shows just the opposite as fatigue and distraction tend to increase without a break. Like the Snickers commercial demonstrates – you are just not yourself when you are hungry.
There are also legal and financial consequences to the company if workers do not adhere to their scheduled rest periods. It’s kind of a big deal. Just ask Wal-Mart or Walgreens or the hundreds of companies paying large financial penalties for not following the rules for lunches and breaks. Lunches should be taken away from your desk so temptation to answer a ringing phone or an email gets removed and the worker is allowed time for themselves. Doing work – even as little as answering a phone – implies the employee is not at rest. A security firm just settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit when security guards were forced to keep their pagers and radios turned on during breaks and lunches. It was not claimed that the workers actually responded to any of the pages or to the radio, but the court found that the workers were not totally free from the threat of work when they were switched on and thus did not experience a restful break.
While federal law is rather silent on lunches and breaks, many of the states are downright shouting. California is probably the most restrictive and punitive – they can add one hour’s pay to an employee’s paycheck for a missed break, add another hour to that check for a missed lunch. If the employee had already put in an 8-hour day – that one or two hours the state slaps on for failing to give the worker a lunch or break becomes overtime. The majority of states that do have regulations on lunches require 30 minutes for lunch for employees working more than 6 hours. Where these state regulations tend to differ is on when that lunch should appear on the employee’s schedule. Oregon is rather specific and Vermont rather general. Some states allow workers to waive breaks and lunches and other states do not. For those allowing waivers, most companies must maintain documentation of some type for their records.
Most states do not have restrictions on lunches and breaks (unless they refer to youth under 18). However, within those states there may be restrictions via contract, union agreement, or employee manual. That employee handbook is just as binding as state law, so it is best that your WFM schedule management tool is configured with your company’s particular guidelines and any other applicable governmental guidelines. Employees in several different states? Some union employees and some non-union? Balancing state guidelines with handbook guidelines? Pipkins has your back. With over 35 years of handling breaks and lunches, we have seen it all – and can customize your company’s particular needs with our current policies or create one with your particular needs in mind. So, take that break … we’ve got this.
Modern WFM schedule management solutions should not only provide optimized schedules but should also include real-time adherence monitoring so that your supervisors know that employees are following their schedules and taking breaks and meals and performing their assigned tasks when they are scheduled in accordance with the optimized schedule your WFM schedule management system generated. Intelligent editing helps ensure that breaks and meals are accounted for automatically when schedule adjustments are made in advance or during intra-day, minimizing time consuming edits for supervisors or administrative staff. Automated editing enables the system to automatically make schedule adjustments for late arrivals, early start times, no-call-no-show occurrences and failure to properly clock out, reducing the need for supervisor/administrator interaction. If your workforce management suite lacks these capabilities, maybe it’s time to replace it.
A privately-held, American-owned company, Pipkins, Inc. was founded in 1983. Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, the firm is a leading supplier of workforce management software, providing sophisticated, cloud-based forecasting and scheduling technology, as well as other fully integrated solutions for WFM schedule management, performance management, real-time adherence, time and attendance tracking, task tracking, absence management, FMLA tracking, compliance monitoring, mentoring, collaboration, and more.
by: Martha Heltsley, PhD