Contact information 

Please notice that PAM and Unemployment Fund helplines are experiencing high call volumes especially in the morning. Answers to many questions is found on our web site.

Membership services

Members' service 030 100 630 is open from September 26 to October 28 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10.00 am - 14.00 pm.

030 100 630 10 am to 2 pm

Employment advice

030 100 625  10 am to 2 pm

Unemployment benefit advice 020 690 211 10 am to 2 pm

Work pauses

Updated: 30.06.2022

Breaks at work are important

Work in the services sector is often busy, and physically and mentally taxing. That’s why it’s important to have pauses at work: even short moments to recover help you get through the work shift and have energy left for your free time. It also pays off to eat during the shift, because your muscles and brain need fuel to function properly.

Breaks belong to everyone

Giving workers breaks during the workday is not voluntary for employers. The employer must organise work and temporary replacements in such a manner that all workers will actually be able to take their breaks. If necessary, the shop can be closed, if no other means to ensure breaks are available at the workplace.

Provisions on allocation and duration of breaks are included in most collective agreements negotiated by PAM. The Working Hours Act guarantees a break for eating when there are no provisions in the collective agreement or if there is no collective agreement at all.

You can find the provisions on breaks/pauses in the services sectors, for example in restaurants, shops, cleaning, and private security at the end of this page.

Commerce sector
Hotel, restaurant and leisure services
Facility services
Security services
Amusement, theme and adventure parks
Working Hours Act

You might need other pauses at work besides lunch and coffee breaks. Those and other frequently asked questions are below.

 

Questions and answers

 

Is a meal break part of every work shift?

The right to a meal break depends on the lengths of your shift, so check it in your collective agreement. Usually, the shift needs to be 6 or 7 hours long for you to take a meal break.

How long are meal breaks?

There are provisions about the lengths of the meal break in most collective agreements, so check what it says on yours. Usually, it has been agreed that the break is 30 minutes.

Is the meal break on my time or part of my working hours?

The meal break is not working hours, if the worker can leave the workplace during the break. Then it is your unpaid time. You have no obligation to work during that time.

If the meal break has been agreed to be taken as you work, then it’s working time. Even then the work has to be organised so that having a break and a meal is actually possible in practice.

When is the meal break supposed to be given?

Breaks must not be scheduled at the beginning or end of a work shift. The time of the meal break should be marked in the shift roster.

Is there a coffee break during every shift and how long is it?

Coffee breaks are agreed in collective agreements. In them a coffee break is included in a 4 hour or over 4 hours work shift. Check what the rules are in the collective agreement for your sector.

Coffee breaks are paid working time. Their length is not stipulated in the collective agreements, because it depends a lot on the size and nature of the workplace. So the length is something that needs to be agreed at the workplace, but typically they are 10-15 minutes long. The employer needs to make sure that it is also possible to take the coffee breaks.

What if I need to use the toilet?

If there is an acute need, you can go to the toilet even if it is not your break.

What about when the heat makes working difficult?

Working in hot temperatures puts more strain on you than working in normal temperatures.

When the outside temperature is more than 25 degrees Celsius, the employer must make sure that the temperature at work stays below 28 degrees. If the temperature despite the employer’s measures is more than 28 degrees, then the number of breaks need to be increased.

The recommendation is that there be a 10–15-minute break every hour:

  • if the temperature is under 33, you work 50 minutes and have a 10-minute break.
  • if the temperature is over 33, you work 45 minutes and have a 15-minute break

Remember microbreaks!

To avoid stress in intense work, small breaks while working can be needed for example to stretch. This can be achieved also by alternating sitting and standing or by changing the work task for a while, so that the type of strain changes.

What if I’m not allowed a break at work?

The rules on breaks are mandatory and the employer must give you your breaks. The work itself, the flow of customers or hurry cannot lead to not having breaks. It is the employer’s duty to make sure the breaks can be taken.

So, tell your employer you need to get your breaks. You can also suggest arrangements that would make it easier to organise the breaks at your workplace.

If the problem is not solved by talking to your employer, you should contact the shop steward (luottamusmies) or occupational safety representative (työsuojeluvaltuutettu) at your workplace. More information and help are available through PAM’s employment advice helpline.

 

Rules on breaks in collective agreements

Commerce sector

Meal break

Length of shift


over 7 hours

Length of meal break 1 hour
Other By local agreement the meal break can be reduced to 30 minutes, or  be removed altogehter, but then meals can be taken during working hours.

 

Coffee break

Length of shift Number of coffee breaks
under 4 hours no coffee breaks
4 hours – 6 hours 1 coffee break
over 6 hours 2 coffee breaks
 
Hotel, restaurant and leisure services

Meal break

Length of shift over 6 hours
Length of meal break 30 minutes or the chance to a long enough break during work to have a meal.
Other If the shift is over 10 hours, the worker has the right to a 30 minute rest at a time indicated by the employer. The length and organisation of the rest period can be agreed locally in accordance with 30 § of the collective agreement. 
 

Coffee break

Length of shift Number of coffee breaks
4 hours or less no coffee break 
over 4 hours 1  coffee break
 
Facility services

Meal break

Length of shift  over 6 hours
Length of meal break 30 minutes
Other The employer and worker can agree to shorten or  altogether remove the meal break/rest time.

 

Coffee break

Length of shift  Number of coffee breaks
4 hours or less no coffee break
over  4 hours – 6  hours 1 coffee break
over 6 hours 2 coffee breaks

 

Security services
Length of shift _
Length of meal break

20 minute rest period for having a meal at work during working hours 

Additional rest 2,5 minutes/hour for the working time that exceeds 8 hours during a shift.

Other

The employer and worker can on a one-time basis agree to lengthen and/or to the possibility to exit the workplace during a rest period. Permanent exceptions need to be agreed with the employer and shop steward or head shop steward in accordance with 51 § of the collective agreement.

 

Amusement, theme and adventure parks
Length of shift over 6 hours
Length of meal break 30 minutes or the chance to have a meal during working hours.
 

Working Hours Act

If the collective agreement for your work does not include rules on breaks, or if there is no collective agreement, then the Working Hours Act applies as to breaks. 

Length of shift over 6 hours
Length of meal break 1 hour
Other

The employer and worker can agree to a shorter, but no shorter than 30 minute break. 

If the shift is over 10 hours, then the worker has the right to an additional maximum 30 minute break after having workes 8 hours.

 

Read more

Member benefits

    Contact information 

    Please notice that PAM and Unemployment Fund helplines are experiencing high call volumes especially in the morning. Answers to many questions is found on our web site.

    Membership services

    Members' service 030 100 630 is open from September 26 to October 28 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10.00 am - 14.00 pm.

    030 100 630 10 am to 2 pm

    Employment advice

    030 100 625  10 am to 2 pm

    Unemployment benefit advice 020 690 211 10 am to 2 pm