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In California, nonexempt employees are entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked or “major fraction thereof,” as well as a 30-minute unpaid meal break if they work for more than five hours per day. 

The main reasons employees don’t take work breaks are:

  • 43 percent say there’s too much work to do.
  • 14 percent say they don’t want to break their “flow” state.
  • 12 percent don’t want to look lazy in front of the boss.
  • 4 percent feel judged by other coworkers.
  • 1 percent say breaks aren’t possible due to not having enough coverage.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more employees have been working remotely — and remote workers face a tricky dichotomy. On one hand, 78 percent of survey respondents believe remote workers take more breaks and 66 percent believe those workers take longer lunches; on the other hand, 70 percent believe remote workers are more productive and 69 percent believe remote workers end up working longer hours overall. No matter the perceptions, California employers must ensure that their remote employees take their meal and rest breaks in accordance with the law, as well as track and pay for any overtime hours worked.

California employers’ policies should stress both the timing of meal and rest breaks and that employees are prohibited from working during these breaks. In addition to periodically reminding employees of these policies, it’s important to encourage employees to take their breaks for meals and rest and track those breaks. Not only does that help keep California employers in compliance, but it also helps workers feel more refreshed and, potentially, more productive during the work day.