Employee Rest,Meal & Smoke Breaks

Hi Everyone,
After 13 years of doing business I finally realized I can’t grow without putting at least the basic expectations into an Employee Manual. Starting with Big Daves help in the Operations Manual class at Pizza Expo a few years ago, we are trying to condense that into a compact handbook and In particular am struggling with the “Wording” for a rest break policy, Meal break policy, and wondering about the “Smoke” break policy.
I know each states Labor Dept. rules are different regarding this, but in general how do you handle this? We want to make it clear to employees to take the guess work out of it for a manager or shift manager to handle.We’re going to discount food 50%, and strongly considering paying for the meal/rest break time.
We’re considering having empoloyees “clock out” (without pay) for the “smoke break”. Being a non-smoker, I think this will really ignite some tempers with smokers. But why should smokers get a paid break that removes them from the store entirely when a non-smoker doesn’t?
Any input on this will help me move forward and on to the next project. Online Ordering!

To my mind, there is NO SUCH THING AS A SMOKE BREAK. There are breaks, but what you do on them is your business. As you mentioned, Why should a smoker get breaks, (paid or unpaid), that a non-smoker does not get? If you have an addiction that keeps you from doing your job - I don’t care if it is alcohol, Coke, meth or nicotine - If it keeps you from doing your job, you no longer have a job!!!

I agree with the why have smoking breaks! Not sure what state you are in but we have smoking banned in all restaurants and some of the cities have gone further and banned within “xx” feet from the entry to public buildings and some include all entries. Being a non-smoker I am all for it. One thing that looks bad is walking up too or even just driving by a place and having 3-4 employees standing out back or off to the side of the front door having a smoke. I would not allow them to have that and it also protects you a bit from the non-smokers having some major issues with all the smokers taking those 10 extra 5 minute breaks a day. As far as an employee handbook… 13 years is way too long to not have one implemented yet. Be careful with your wording…cover as much as you can think of…and when you are ready to hand them out… have a manditory employee meeting… READ it to them page by page… ask if they have any questions… and then sit with each person privately and ask them again if there are any issues they would like to discuss or any questions about the newly written out policies. Then sign and date an acknowledgment that they received, read, and understand everything that is written out in the handbook. The next thing is too make sure that you follow your new rules as you have written them out. You have tied your own hands a little by having the handbook but if written well…it will protect and benefit you.

I agree with the others, don’t make special provisions with a smoke break. If you want to include a break or give your managers discretion to allow ad hoc breaks awesome but call it a break and make sure its applied consistently. For me If they can’t go a shift without a smoke than tough cookies, they are there to do a job if they can’t do it then let them go. They can smoke on their 15 min break. Most places I worked gave you a 15 min on the clock break for each 4 hours you where scheduled. For 6 or more scheduled hours you got a 30 min off the clock meal break. breaks and meal times are not required by my state and the handbook had in it that breaks were not guarenteed and were at the discretion of the manager depending on a variety of factors. Keep in mind that if you give a off the clock break FLSA requires that they be relieved of all duties and not be required to work off the clock.

When writing your manaual make sure your policies are vague enough to cover a wide range of activities and that you include phrasing that allows management to allow exceptions (where appropriate). You’ll also want in there something to the effect “this handbook and policies can change without notice. Employees are responsible for reading the contencts of this handbook”. Obviously that means you need to give access to the new policies in a timely manner but it protects you as an employer. As mentioned by the others you’ll want to have them sign annually that they understand and have read the handbook and agree to comply with all policies.

I’d checkout a few to a dozen handbooks from a variety of companies to get a feel for what you want to cover.

You will recieve pushback on this since this is a culture change and the employee’s probably see a “smoke break” as a right. You will need to stick to your guns and enforce it consistently to get the culture change in place.
This is a tool to protect you and to educate yoru employees on your policies.

I have been using a payroll leasing co. for over 5 years. As part of their services, they offer a free handbook specific to your state. The book is a pdf and allows you to make changes or add any specific changes. They do have a disclaimer that is to be read and signed by all employees that says the rules can be changed as needed and they are responsible for understanding the contents of the book.
This keeps you from having to read it to them. You give them the book on their first day, they sign the form at the front that says they have received a copy and are to ask any questions if they do not understand any items in the book.

Some past employments have provided serious applicants the book to read and if they did not like the policies in the book they were not to bother going to the 2nd interview. This kept folks from saying “I did not know that when I hired on”.

It might be a way of insuring legal compatibility if you used a leasing comp. instead of doing it yourself.

Most folks don’t remember the rules by reading, they remember them by their supervisor teaching them.

Smoke Break? What is that?

Employees get breaks. It has nothing to do with what they do during the break.

BTW, our state is one of the ones that does not allow smoking in any public place within 25’ of the entrance to any public place. Public places INCLUDES outdoor areas used by the public such as seating. It also means that there is no place you can legally smoke on the sidewalk downtown as you are always within 25’ of the entrance of a place of business. Officially, the same goes for the ally but that is where employees go.

Thanks Guys,
Anyone want to share their handbook by email with me?

You folks are spot on with your advice on how to handle these “breaks”. I’ve got some bad habits of ours to break and a different way of operating to explain to the employees. CULTURE shock is going to be tough on them. But they will get it with some explaining and have to get them to “buy in”. The non-smokers will get it no problem.
As far as I know in the state of Maine, there’s no setback point for smoking near our entrances to the stores to deal with, and we’ve discussed these breaks they’ll be entitled to with pay and the ones that will be without pay if they request them.
I’ve been giving free food to employees since the beginning and now feel they take it for granted as a fringe benefit and there is no value to the food in there eyes and thats one of the things I want to change. And these rest/meal breaks are “at will” currently with no time limitations.

Now that you’ve got the smoke break situation figured out …now is the time to tackle the dreaded CELL PHONE crisis in the workplace :smiley:

You could always just allow smoking during text breaks.

I love a good meth break every 20 mins or so. My employees are on the honor system. You wanna smoke . Smoke. You wanna text. Text. You wanna play with your iPod for 29 minutes that’s fine. The thing is,if your the kind of person who abuses privileges then you don’t work for me. My employees have a free roam. The front guys help the back guys. The back guys help the front guys. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t have some one smoking a stogie out back on their cell phone in the middle of dinner. I don’t give people very long to prove themselves. Either you have it our you dont. This is my reputation. And my life. I get rid of bad employees. My employees are taught judgment. Someone needs to be helped. Help them. order comes in, Make it exactly how you were taught. Be personable with everyone.

The cell phone problem was worse a few years ago before texting got so big. We do not allow phone calls or texting during the rush. In the slower time of day we allow it within reason. Employees who can not find the balance are asked to leave their phones in thier jacket or pack during the shift. At least now that all employees have cell phones, the personal calls don’t come on the store phones any more!

We provide shift meals of pizza or salad (or anything they want to make using those ingredients). Drinks, apps, wings, etc are always paid for.

Thanks Guys,
Anyone want to share their handbook by email with me?

whats your email I have one can send you