McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food chain, is currently facing a class action lawsuit in the Federal Court that may cost them as much as $250 million for allegedly denying paid breaks to their employees. This complaint is McDonald’s second legal battle regarding employee entitlements in the past two years. McDonald’s has responded to these allegations by denying them, noting that they have always followed the provisions outlined in the Fast Food Industry Award 2010 & 2020 (and the applicable enterprise agreements that apply to their business) and that they have always, and will continue to, provide their employees with the legally mandated breaks for which they are entitled.

What breaks are employees entitled to under the Fast Food Industry Award?​

The Fast Food Industry Award 2020 outlines that employees are legally entitled to rest and meal breaks in the following circumstances:

  1. Shifts more than 4 hours but less than 5 entitles employees to one 10 minute paid rest break;
  2. Shifts more than 5 hours but less than 9 hours entitles employees to one 10 minute paid rest and one unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes but not more than 60 minutes;
  3. Shifts more than 9 hours entitle employees to either of the following:
    • Two unpaid meal breaks of at least 30 minutes but not more than 60 minutes PLUS one 10 minute paid break; or
    • One unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes but not more than 60 minutes PLUS two 10 minute paid rest breaks which are to be taken in either halves of the shift.
  4. The timing and duration of rest and meal breaks for part-time employees must be included in the roster;
  5. The timing of the taking of a rest break or meal break is intended to provide a meaningful break for the employee during work hours;
  6. An employer cannot require an employee to:
    • Take a rest break or meal break within the first or the last hour of work; or
    • Take a rest break combined with a meal break; or
    • Work more than 5 hours without taking a meal break.


Are there alternatives to providing the ten minute rest break?

In November of 2020 a McDonalds franchisee was subject to similar court action where the Federal Court found that the employer had failed to provide one of their employees with the legally required paid breaks under their enterprise agreement. It was revealed that McDonalds was denying the worker their legally entitled 10 minute paid rest break on the basis that they were able to use the restroom or get a drink at any time during their shift. The Court held that this did not comply with the relevant breaks provision in the enterprise agreement and that an uninterrupted ten minute paid rest break could not be substituted by an entitlement to get a drink or go to the bathroom at any time.


Lesson for Employers

The current class action against McDonalds, is a useful reminder to employers that all modern awards contain provisions dealing with mandatory breaks. Ensuring that you have a thorough understanding of the relevant Award requirements is crucial. If in doubt, we would always recommend that employers seek legal or other professional advice.


Need further help?

If you need further help regarding any of the matters referred to in this article, please contact EI Legal.


About EI Legal

EI Legal is a specialist employment law firm focused on providing comprehensive employment solutions to SMEs and corporate clients. At EI Legal, we live and breathe employment law. All our lawyers are specialist employment lawyers, rather than generalists who dabble in this area.



The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional/legal advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact EI Legal for advice.