I started at the company I'm at now about 2.5 years ago. I was told via email I get an hour lunch. I asked, via email, if I needed to take the whole hour for lunch. (I assumed it was an unpaid lunch.) They told me I did not have to take the full hour.

There are two people in my department: me and another. I was told by this other person (who is not a manager) that the company culture is to work 42 hours per week. So I started working that amount of hours plus my lunch break.

A few weeks later, I was told by this person that I had a paid lunch and did not have to work so many extra hours.

Two years later

I find out all the other engineers (other departments), only have a half hour lunch. They are in a different building. They also are expected to work 45 hours per week. At this point, I emailed HR asking if my lunch was paid or unpaid. I attached the original email that said I have an hour lunch.

They tell me my lunch is paid. (I do not think they read the attachment.) Around this time, we also have a meeting with all the engineers to talk about it. They tell us that we all have a paid lunch and are expected to work 45 hours/week.

Again, all the other engineers have a 30 minute lunch. I did not bring up how I am entitled to an hour lunch at that meeting. However, now I wonder since it was announced at the meeting... the actual company culture is to work 45 hours/week (not 42).

My manager just changed, and now all the engineers are under this one manager. Should I start working 45 hours now? Also, if this matters, I started looking for another job. I just want a larger pay bump than my average 5% annual raise.

  • 9
    If you want an official answer, ask your manager.if you don't want to risk an answer you don't like, wait and see if your manager asks you.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 18:57
  • So 45 hours is, 40 hours of work and 5 hours for lunch, or are we talking about 45 hours of work and 5 hours for lunch? Can you clarify what you mean exactly? What does a 5% increase in pay have to do with your question!
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 3:54
  • 5
    Humans are incredibly bad at remembering rules. What is written down in your contract?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 6:56
  • How many hours a week are you contracted for?
    – Steve Ives
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 8:23
  • 2
    Which country, and how many hours do you get paid? If you work more hours than your contract says you need to get paid overtime or have a significantly higher salary.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 9:05

4 Answers 4


Also, if this matters, I started looking for another job.

I suggest you focus on this and don't worry about or create drama over lunch timeframes. There is little point to drawing potentially unwelcome attention to yourself when you have one foot out the door already.


If nobody has complained to you specifically and you’ve made a good-faith effort to clarify things (which you have). Then I say keep doing what you’re currently doing.

Fun anecdote:

I was with my old company for 8 years. Joined when it was just 5 people. I worked 9-5. But at a certain point all the new people got 9-5:30 in their contracts.

And I always thought my 9-5 got grandfathered in because it was an old contract and they never updated them (beyond salary changes).

Anyway, about 5 years in I had reason to check my original contract and it clearly said 9-5:30.

But you know what? I’d been doing 9-5 for 5 years. Did great work. Had 2 promotions by that point. So I decided if nobody had complained in 5 years, I wasn’t about to make a thing out of it.

And I kept arriving at 9 and leaving at 5 right up until I left 3 years later.


No part of this question contains information from your contract. It alone is the definitive source of truth. Not what someone else gets, or if offers have changed since you joined the company.

For anything not explicitly in your contract, refer to the employee handbook which would then be referenced in your contract.

For anything not in the employee handbook, refer to the general legislature surrounding employment in your jurisdiction.

  • 1
    I do not have a contract. I just have the offer letter stating my initial salary and the emails about the offer at that time. The employee handbook says lunches are unpaid. Although, that is for production employees and when I asked about this via email, HR told me I have a paid lunch. I am exempt. So the employee handbook does not help with this. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 15:16
  • 1
    @worktoomuch If you are employed, you have a contract. There is no jurisdiction that I know of where that is not the case. If such a jurisdiction were to exist, workers' rights would be effectively zero ams you'd be employed completely at the company's whim - which renders the question moot as you have no say in the matter.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 16:01
  • @JoeStrazzere: It being more commonplace in the US is functionally irrelevant as to the anwer. Without a contract, you have no leg to stand on with regards to protesting your employer altering the deal. All you can do is pray that they don't alter it any further.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 12:59
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere: I maintain that the concept of employment is irrelevant in absence of a recognized contract. Whether or not that it is a piece of paper following a particular standard is usually legally relevant but not core to my answer. Without a way for one party to ensure that the other party cannot change their mind as they see fit, the answer to any employment question is always "whatever they say, man", which renders any possible question unanswerable. My answer simply does not account for the unanswerable case as it is inherently impossible to ever answer the unanswerable.
    – Flater
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 17:41
  • Do you mean offer letter? I think if I asked HR about my employment "contract" they wouldn't know what I mean. Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 18:08

Paid lunch time is very rare. I could only see a (small) payment if the company needs to make sure that you are in or very close to the office and can interrupt your lunch break and return to the office in an emergency.

Some countries have laws how much lunch break there must be, and a lunch break must be uninterrupted or it is not a lunch break. So in the "emergency" case, you'd handle the emergency, and then have a second attempt to get your lunch break. Other than that, your contract says how many hours you need to work, and that doesn't include lunch break.

  • my company (US) has paid lunch and I know a number of other people where I am that have it as well. I don't think it's that rare.
    – Esther
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 17:55

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