Why It's Important to Track Employee Breaks (and How to Do It)

Granting employees regular breaks is a common practice at many businesses. And in some workplaces, policy requires that workers take regular, mandatory breaks.

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

A break from the working day in a restaurant is a welcome opportunity for your front-of-house or kitchen staff to grab a coffee and clear their minds.

UK law states employees should have at least a 20-minute break if they work more than six hours a day. But it’s one thing to have breaks. It’s another to invest in employee time tracking to ensure your employees are taking them. And there are two reasons that it’s important to enforce and monitor regular breaks:

Employee breaks can improve productivity.

It’s not hard to understand why restaurant managers want employees to take some time to relax, since giving workers a rest helps boost their mood — and more.

Breaks can improve employee decision-making, restore their motivation, and boost their productivity and creativity. That’s because working for long periods of time can lead to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes you and replenishes your mental resources.

It’s important to track breaks with employee time tracking so you can ensure that every employee is taking the time they need to recharge.

There’s no doubt that breaks are good for employees. But as an employer, you should be strategic about the timing of these breaks so they don’t have a negative impact on your business.

Look at your restaurant sales data (by day, hour, and employee) to figure out your busiest shifts so that you have enough coverage during peak times.

Employee time tracking helps you abide by the law.

The UK break law states that after more than six hours of working, an employee is entitled to one interrupted 20-minute break, which could be a tea or lunch break. Whether it is paid or not depends on the employer.

The government also advises that ‘an employer should give enough breaks to ensure their health and safety isn’t at risk if that work is ‘monotonous’ (e.g. work on a production line)’. When creating your company’s break policies, make sure your rules are in compliance with the law.

How to track employee breaks

Step 1: Create an employee break policy.

Setting a policy with clear parameters at your restaurant is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to break times.

Your guidelines should outline whether employees need to work a certain number of hours before they take a 15-minute break. Or you might put rules in place so your employees aren’t on their breaks at the same time, while ensuring they still follow the law. Make sure the details of the guide are specific to your workplace.

For example, if you make employees put away their mobile phones when they come to work, you could allow them to use phones during breaks. (This has a positive effect on employees’ wellbeing).
If employees smoke during their breaks, decide whether to create a policy about how far away from the building they must stay while smoking.

When managing a restaurant, decide whether employees get free or discounted food during their meal breaks. (Remember that meals and discounts can have tax implications.)

Step 2: Set expectations for employees early on.

Once you have a policy, you need to communicate it. Make your expectations clear from the get-go so employees know what they need to do to succeed.
Include your break policy (and other company policies) in your training program for new and existing employees.

Step 3: Look for a restaurant POS with employee-tracking capabilities.

The easiest, most accurate way to keep track of employees’ time is with a restaurant POS that has an integrated employee break function. Square for Restaurants, for example, is a point of sale with a built-in employee time-tracking solution.

The right restaurant point of sale can help you make better-informed decisions. Looking at your sales, analytics, and team management reports together can inform how much staff to schedule or what products you ask them to push. And if you can connect it with other software, like email marketing](https://squareup.com/gb/en/townsquare/how-to-create-an-email-marketing-strategy), it’s a real time-saver, too.