I do marketing work with the public. I think my team lead is trying to game the system and maybe thinks she's doing us a favour. She only gives one 15 minute break over a 8.5 hour shift. However she sends us home when the work is done which is usually a couple hours early (and we still get paid for the full amount we were scheduled for).

I'm not really a fan of this system as I find the work tiring and I'd prefer to have a proper break. I consider talking to the team lead directly but other people who may prefer this system could resent me for changing it. Should I go above her and contact her manager? The law requires a 30 minute break every 5 hours. I'd feel a bit guilty if I got a longer break than everyone else and got to leave at the same time.

Also given the nature/setup of the work, it takes 5-10 minutes to get to a coffee shop or the break room so a 15 minute break is really insufficient.

  • Not sure how others can be okay with this system don't they need breaks as well? I assume they are normal humans as well? Anyway adding country tag would be helpful. Apr 27, 2019 at 6:32
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    Also did you try to ask the team lead so that only you can have break extended and others can continue as they wish? Apr 27, 2019 at 6:46
  • @noob nonsense. someone else is putting up with something unfair does not mean I have to put it up with, too. Apr 27, 2019 at 9:00
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    While I agree with Joe, @noob your assessment that no one would be willing to work through breaks in order to have a shorter day is inaccurate. I prefer to work this way and know many other people who do as well. (I should say I prefer to do so when I have the choice, which is a very important factor.)
    – Summer
    Apr 27, 2019 at 14:03
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    @bruglesco what I don't understand is how does 15 min less break translates to 2 hour early completion of shift. Apr 27, 2019 at 14:09

5 Answers 5


I'm not really a fan of this system as I find the work tiring and I'd prefer to have a proper break. I consider talking to the team lead directly but other people who may prefer this system could resent me for changing it

Arrange a time for a one-on-one meeting with her and tell her that you'd prefer to have a proper break.

Don't bring your co-workers into the discussion, make the conversation about your own preferences.

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    What is the outcome you would expect from this? What is the win-win scenario that leaves both sides happy?
    – nvoigt
    Apr 27, 2019 at 16:04
  • If she says no then would I go above her to her manager?
    – user104163
    Apr 27, 2019 at 17:06
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    @nvoigt obviously it could go a few ways, but the outcome would be that the manager is aware that the OP is not happy with the current approach to their breaks, and has the opportunity to fix the situation. The OP thinks their manager "thinks she's doing us a favour", so the situation is unlikely to change without a conversation.
    – Player One
    Apr 27, 2019 at 22:28
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    @user104163 if you go over her head to try and reverse a decision she's made then you'll probably ruin the relationship between the two of you. It's up to you whether getting the longer breaks that you're entitled to is worth that.
    – Player One
    Apr 27, 2019 at 22:30

If the work is pretty much individualized (which I doubt), then you could have the one-on-one meeting that @PlayerOne suggested. Would be the best idea.

But, if the work is collective, and you having larger breaks means you'll be resting while other people are working but you all leave early together, then that puts everyone in an uncomfortable spot.

Forget about what the law says, there are lots of things that go against the law but everyone prefers. If you use that as an argument to force something that displeases everyone else, you'll damage your relationship with your colleagues, and suing the company sounds bad for future employers.

If you can, consider proposing that you will arrive early, so that you alone can take longer breaks, but do this only if it will become evident for everyone that you are indeed arriving early, and how much earlier. "The boss will know", or "some clock will register" are not enough, people need to feel that is fair for you to rest while they work.

Make some strategies so that your current short break is better spent. Maybe bring some food you can eat quickly rather than going outside for a coffee.

Maybe talk to you colleagues as a natural conversation "15 min is such a short break, don't you think?" If you can honestly diagnose that most of them you prefer a longer break instead of a short one with an earlier leave time, then start openly proposing it "I always say we should a have 30 minute break...".

But, honestly, unless things go naturally on your way, I expect to have to suck it up. Unless you have some publicly known health condition that forces you to take longer breaks, it's not worth disturbing everyone's agreement to your favor.

  • Obviously there are exceptions to this. If everyone works overtime because "that's just how it's done here" or whatever, any they aren't being compensated, don't follow the crowd. Demand to be paid for your work. If other people are volunteering their time, you're under no obligation to do so. OP should be care about exposing the team to the accusing of "time theft" however. Companies have become big fans of pulling that one, despite wage theft being one of the biggest issues facing labour.
    – Malisbad
    Apr 28, 2019 at 2:13
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    @Malisbad : To be clear, I'm not advocating that one shouldn't use the law as the argument to fix unfair things. But the situation OP describes, especially if as he mentions " other people who may prefer this system", goes down to a matter of preference, unlike something being blatantly unfair like not paying for extra hours.
    – Mefitico
    Apr 28, 2019 at 3:05

Assuming you have a right to that break and also assuming that you have no right to leave early and being paid for it, it seems that the rest of the team struck a bargain. One that might be illegal by the letters of the law, but one that both sides seem to be fine with. So although it's your right to take a normal break, it might also upset all others who like the current situation. So you should aim at getting what you want, while not getting in trouble with all your colleagues.

If you go through the typical hierarchy, you will get people upset. Best case is everybody gets a mild reprimand and follows the law from now on and all the workers get paid substantially less (only what they worked for) or the workers have to actually stay until the end of their shift, even with no work to do (ultimately boring and time consuming).

So your aim should be to reach an agreement with your team lead to have a proper break and the way to do that is to offer something in return:

Hey Teamlead, I really appreciate our flexible working times, but I noticed recently that I really need that full break to concentrate and do my job. I feel cranky if I don't get to eat and use a restroom and I cannot give my best talking to our customers under those conditions. I thought that maybe if you let me take a full break, I could do most of the cleanup after we are done and the others that had no break can leave even if there's still stuff to put away and clean up because I'll do it. What do you think about that?

This achieves multiple things: you don't ruin the other's inofficial agreements and it's in plain sight that you don't get an additional break (which would be unfair) but instead just work a different schedule, one with a break in the middle but with extra work at the end to make up for it. So they cover for you during your break and you cover for them when they leave even earlier.


Check the employment law in your area. Many require a 1 hour break for every 4 hours of work.

Bring it up privately to your supervisor that you feel that the 15 minutes is not sufficient time to rest and do the other things that need to be done, and as a result you feel exhausted, and that it is probably not sustainable.

You can mention how most jurisdictions require this by law, and you are learning why (the hard way) in that you are so exhausted.

However you may be willing to try to compromise such as having a 45 minute break instead, and seeing how that works. Perhaps the supervisor tries the 1 hour breaks and see if it hurts productivity- it might have the opposite result.

If your supervisor doesn’t agree, make notes of when the breaks began, ended and when you started and finished work, any discussions you had about it, how you felt, and quietly report it to the local employment authority. No one needs to know it came from you, and retaliation once the employment authorities are involved can also be very bad for the employer.

If there is something about your job that makes it unsustainable, it is the type of thing you supervisor should know.

If it is against the law and should be corrected, that is something the authorities should know, but shouldn’t be necessary if your employer is willing to cooperate.

The fact is, the duration of work (and its intensity) is having a detrimental effect on your quality of life (you’re exhausted).

The reason why is because the breaks are too short. Nothing more, nothing less.

You either get the supervisor to correct it or the authorities to intervene.


Escalate this issue above your team leader IMMEDIATELY.

What your team lead is doing is UNETHICAL (e.g. billing for hours when you're not really working that many hours) and in some cases may be ILLEGAL. In some jurisdictions you can SUE you employer for not giving sufficient breaks during a shift.

If escalating above your team lead does not yield results then TAKE IT TO HR IF YOU HAVE TO. They will arrange a meeting to resolve this issue. Hopefully your team lead will realize that they are committing malpractice and will change the policy immediately. If your company does not have an HR department then you may need to consult an ETHICIST or even a LAWYER if applicable.

Don't be afraid to escalate the issue to whatever level is necessary to get RESULTS. Take your break.

  • There are very specific cases where this might be illegal, while in many cases, not paying for these hours would create problems. If I hire you to work 8 hours a day, but I let you go home after 6 with no salary cut, do you mind? What if I do cut 25% of your salary? Also, escalating problems recklessly is the best way to damage your reputation with your boss/supervisor. This should very rarely be done without talking to the direct boss first. Also, should preferably be done through some anonymous compliance channel, if available.
    – Mefitico
    Apr 28, 2019 at 3:09
  • @Mefitico--RECKLESSLY? The only thing reckless here is the team lead's BLATANT disregard for laws about giving breaks to employees and potential FRAUD related to time reporting. OP needs to escalate this YESTERDAY and gets these issues resolved.
    – takeabreak
    Apr 29, 2019 at 13:37

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