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.

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