Coffee breaks, cigarette breaks, meal breaks, breastfeeding breaks, prayer breaks... It's easy to get confused! Which ones are mandatory? When does the employer have to give them? Are all employees treated the same?

Health protection

The employer is the guarantor of the employees' health in the workplace. Some breaks are necessary to allow employees to recharge their batteries during the day. The employer must take measures to ensure that employees take their breaks. Failure to do so may result in liability for accidents or burnout.

The number and duration of breaks depends in principle on the length of the working day. However, some employees benefit from special circumstances, especially when their health is more fragile. The employer must give them more breaks, within the legal limits.

Break or working time

In principle, during the break, the employee is free to move around. What happens when the employee is "on call" during his break or when he cannot leave the company? Is it a break or working time?

Company canteen

In order for the break to achieve its purpose of rest, the employee must be able to eat and sit down. In certain situations, the employer must arrange the workplace and install a company canteen.

Recording of working hours

The employer is in principle obliged to record the working hours and breaks of his employees, if these are compulsory. However, there are exceptions and possibilities to record working time in a simplified way for employees who have a great deal of autonomy in organizing their working time.


Pregnancy is a time when the employee tires more quickly. When performing certain strenuous activities, the pregnant employee will be entitled to additional paid breaks.

During breastfeeding, the employee is entitled to breaks to breastfeed or express milk. These breaks depend largely on the length of the employee's daily work schedule. After a certain period, these breaks will no longer be paid.


When the employee is particularly young, he/she has less resistance to fatigue than his/her older colleagues. The length of the working day is limited. Does this include breaks?


When the employee works from home, the employer has less control over his or her work time and breaks. Abuse is never far away. How should the employer handle the situation of an employee who never takes his lunch break to finish early or who, on the contrary, takes numerous cigarette breaks throughout the day? Does the employer have to record the employee's work time and breaks?


is when an employee can determine, within certain limits, the start and end of their workday and the length of their lunch break. This schedule allows employees to better balance their private and professional lives.

This system is often welcomed by employees but can be tricky to implement. The employer must deal with abuses, including employees who do not take their breaks in order to finish earlier.


The employer has a general duty to protect and respect the employee's religious freedom. But how far does this duty extend? Should they provide additional breaks for the employee to pray? What about equal treatment?


Since the passive smoking law came into force, smoking is in principle prohibited within the company. However, the employer must not stigmatize employees who smoke. Should he give them additional cigarette breaks? 

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