Wisconsin's Public Liberal Arts College

Use of Breaks


Human Resources Office

Use of Breaks

In the 1997 - 1999 WSEU labor agreement between the state and the blue collar, clerical, technical and public safety bargaining units Article 6, Section 10/1 states the following:

"All employees shall receive one (1) fifteen (15) minute rest period during each one-half shift. The Employer retains the right to schedule employees' rest periods to fulfill the operational needs of the various work units. Rest periods may not be postponed or accumulated. If an employee does not receive a rest period because of operational requirements, such rest period may not be taken during a subsequent work period."

The following points are to clarify the operational limitations of the above statement.

It is to the benefit of the employer and employee that rest breaks be taken. Only when operational need makes it impossible to take a break, should employees be asked to skip their break. "Operational need" means that if the employee were to leave the task at hand it would result in damage to equipment or processes, endanger the health and safety of staff or the public, or would have significant impact on the service to the public. In many cases, it may require the break to be taken at a later time and only in extended emergencies would the break be lost altogether. Examples may include emergencies where equipment must be monitored at all times; where one is responding to a telephone or in-person inquiry from a customer, if no back-up is available; or when monitoring safety equipment for another employee currently involved in a dangerous task. This is intended to be a guide to supervisors, however, management still reserves the right to determine each situation on its own merits.

A rest break is paid university time which means the employee is in employment status during the break time which is different from the unpaid lunch break. This can mean that if an employee leaves campus during a break, the University can be liable for accidents or injuries as in any employment related activity. Therefore, employees should inform their supervisor that they are leaving the campus and should understand that they waive all University liability upon leaving in pay status. It should be understood that said employees must limit their break to the 15 minutes allotted.

Break times should not be taken at the beginning or end of a shift to allow the employee to report to work 15 minutes later or to leave 15 minutes early. For example, if the employee's schedule is to work from 7:45 to 4:30, one cannot decide to come in at 8:00 and not take the morning break.

If an employee is unable to take a break due to work requirements, he/she cannot accumulate the time for another time. The break is to be taken within each one-half shift (each 4 hours worked) and, if not taken, it is lost.


These points are in no way intended to eliminate the flexibility of the supervisor and employee to deal with emergency or unusual situations. If, however, a decision is made to permanently change an employee's work schedule, prior written approval must be obtained from the Office of Human Resources.


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