Reminder: take lunch breaks or be compensated

The union is reminding employees that skipped lunch breaks should be fairly and fully compensated

“Being forced to routinely work through lunch breaks is illegal unless a series of very strict requirements are met, including being fully financially compensated for it,” Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) has reminded employees in its latest statement.

“We are alarmed a[t] the number of pharmacists who tell us that they receive no financial compensation at all for the lack of a lunch break.

“Working through every lunchtime is unacceptable practice that could cause dangerous levels of fatigue.

“We regularly advise pharmacists who have signed any agreement to remove their lunch breaks to immediately ask their employer to itemise any compensation they are paid in lieu of all Award entitlements such as their lunch breaks.”

In many cases employers are required to itemise how much compensation is being paid to a pharmacist for missing lunch, to demonstrate that the pharmacist is not being illegally underpaid, says the PPA.

“Any agreement to take away pharmacists’ lunch breaks must be in writing, ensure that the employee is financially better off and employees cannot be forced into signing any agreement that takes away their lawful entitlements.”

PPA notes that it is unlawful for an employer to ask you to sign an Individual Flexibility Agreement (IFA) that does not give you more compensation for working through lunch than you would otherwise be entitled to.

It is also unlawful for an employer to ask you to sign an IFA which does not itemise what that compensation is for each Award entitlement that has been taken away from you, says the union.

Generally, pharmacist employees should be taking their lunch breaks. According to the National Pharmacies and Professionals Australia Pharmacists Agreement 2016, accepted by the Fair Work Commission in June this year:

1. Where an Employee works at least five (5) continuous hours, they will be entitled to a meal break of not less than 30 minutes and not greater than one (1) hour duration plus a ten (1 0) minute paid tea break. The tea break must not be given so as to be adjoining with the starting time of work, the usual meal interval or, the time of ending work (subject to clause 20.2).

2. Where a pharmacist is working as a sole pharmacist and they are within one (1) hour of finishing work the meal break need not be taken.

3. All Employees who commence their lunch break before 11.30am or after 2.00pm are entitled to a 20 minute paid tea break.

4. Breaks will be taken at time as determined by National Pharmacies based on operational requirements.

5. Subject to clause 18.3 of this Agreement an Employee must have at least ten (10) hours rest between the finish of work and the commencement of the next shift.

(Section 20.1, “Breaks”)

The union encourages pharmacists to contact PPA’s legal team for advice on their individual circumstances.

“If your employer refuses to itemise the compensation you receive for things like lunch breaks you should contact PPA immediately,” it says.

Previous What makes a good prescription?
Next Forum: Reality discharge planning

NOTICE: It can sometimes take awhile for comment submissions to go through, please be patient.


  1. Toby

    Do you get lunch breaks when you are in the dole queue?

    • The Cynic

      Hi Toby. I am pretty sure you don’t.Although the point you wish to make seems obvious I would be interested in you expanding your argument.
      How do you believe these statutory matters be addressed.

      • James Lawson

        To address any discrepancies with wages, typically it’s suggested to use the steps for a dispute resolution in the workplace.

        Fair Work Australia recommends you begin by taking any issues to your direct superior and discuss the matter. If they are unable to help, typically it’s forwarded to senior management.

        If your pharmacy is QCPP approved, their operations manual will contain a copy of document “P14D Workplace Grievance Procedure”. Using this as a guide will help you address any dispute that may arise.

        By following these steps, you should be able to correct any oversights in your wages in a fast, fair and transparent manner.

  2. James Lawson

    Given that the award rate specifies time and a half paid for a 30 minute working lunch break, an IFA that requires a pharmacist to regularly work during lunch five days a week only needs to pay $2 per hour above the award to be legally acceptable. There’s even almost enough left over to cover the loss of your 17.5% holiday leave loading too.

  3. Andrew


    Next you’ll be telling us that employees should get paid for the 30 mins of stuff they have to do before and after hours.

  4. dubious

    I wish someone paid me for a lunch break .. as an owner operator ‘yer dreamin!’

    • Mac

      No doubt you are fairly compensated overall

    • Ronky

      Complain to your “boss”, there’s no point whinging to us. If you don’t pay yourself a fair wage, it’s nobody else’s fault.

      • dubious

        I did complain, but Sussan Ley just won’t come to the party

        • Ronky

          If you think that Sussan Ley is your boss, there’s your problem.

    • Nicholas Logan

      I totally get that dubious. 30 minutes lunch is a slammed sandwich and replying to 30 emails. And Susan Ley is the closest thing I have to a boss (sob).

  5. Jenny

    Lol the last 12 years working as a hospital and retail pharmacist, I was often forced to work during my lunch breaks due to the workload and being short staffed.

    It got to the point where I didnot even see lunch breaks as a given thing but more of a luxurious gift that occasionally happened. I only prayed that my three pagers (covering for multiple ppl who decided to call in sick) wouldn’t be going off when I had to go to the toilet.

    I remember working as a sole pharmacist in the retail section, I especially watched my water intake because at times doing a 12 hours shift, the minute you stepped out for a toilet break, a customer would walk in.

    I have since left hospital/community and have gone to e-health. Not only I am a lot happier, I can have regular morning tea breaks (Yes such things exist) and also lunch breaks. I have been pinching myself in the last year to make sure I am not dreaming.

    Being a pharmacist = worse than being a slave and I just felt like I worked like a dog and was so miserable!

  6. Owner


  7. Paige

    I haven’t taken a lunch break in years because a. it slows the day down and b. its expensive. Plus I dont really work hard enough during my paid hours to really deserve a lunch break anyway.

    If you want to piss and moan about what you’re entitled to, go ahead. The only people you have to complain to are the ones who stand to gain the most from that half an hour of free labour. Kick up enough of a stink and you can have a permanent holiday! They don’t care, they’ll just line up the next illiterate new grad.

Leave a reply