Rules Corner: Understanding Lunch, Break, and Exercise Release Periods

For many public employees, the right to take breaks at work can seem ambiguous. It is important to know what you are entitled to and to understand the differences between lunch, a break, and an exercise release. Department of Human Resources Management (DHRM) Rule R477-8-3 states that each full-time workday may include a minimum of a 30-minutes uncompensated lunch period, granted at the discretion of agency management.

It is important to note that lunch periods may not be used to shorten a work day. An employee is also entitled to take a 15-minute break for every four hours worked. Again, these breaks may not be accumulated to shorten a work day or lengthen a lunch period.

Because more agencies now permit employees to engage in compensated exercise release time, it is important to understand the parameters. At the employer’s discretion, an employee is allowed to exercise up to three days per week for 30 minutes. Please note that work time exercise that is a job requirement is not subject to be used as exercise release time. Utah Performance Management documents all authorization for exercise time and regularly scheduled lunch breaks less than 30 minutes in length.

A part of Rule R477-8-3 that is often overlooked or unknown to employees is that a female employee, following the first year of a child’s life, is allowed reasonable, daily breaks to pump breastmilk for her child. These breaks must be requested by the employee through her supervisor and human resources. A state agency must provide a private location, other than a restroom, for the employee’s convenience and privacy whiling pumping breastmilk. Agencies also must provide temporary storage for the expressed milk.

If you have any questions about breaks in the workplace, please contact the Utah Public Employees’ Association (UPEA) to learn more.