Technical Support Blog

Managing Employee Lunch breaks

Meal breaks are an important part of the workday offering employees the chance to refuel and recharge. At the same time, ensuring that employee lunch breaks are properly taken can be a time intensive challenge for employers.

Unwanted overtime can occur when employees fail to remain clocked out for their full lunch break. Employees that exceed their allowed lunch period negatively impacts productivity and employee morale. In states like California, significant penalties accrue when workers are prevented (or even discouraged) from starting meal breaks after five hours worked.

The new lunch rules in Virtual TimeClock 16 dramatically simplifies managing employee lunches. They work just like the popular "Clock In" and "Clock Out" rules, enforcing your policies real time as your employees use the timeclock.

You'll begin by entering in the duration of a lunch period when creating or configuring shifts in Virtual TimeClock 16. The default is 60 minutes, as shown below: 

Each shift has four sets of rules to help you manage employees lunch breaks: 

Ensuring employees start meal breaks on time
The first rule is useful where labor contracts or states (like California) mandate that meal breaks occur within specified work periods. Using this rule, workers are alerted when they attempt to clock out for lunch if their work time has exceeded a preset limit. The "Courtesy Start" option requires employees acknowledge they are doing so completely voluntarily. The "Prevent Start" option displays an error and directs the worker to a supervisor or manager for assistance.  

Recording the full lunch period if employees return early
When a worker attempts to return from lunch too early, they are prompted with the message that their meal break is not yet complete. They are allowed to acknowledge that they will not be starting work until their full lunch period is over. This means they can clock back in before their lunch period is finished, but Virtual TimeClock records the return time at the end of the full duration of their lunch period.

This courtesy option gives your employees flexibility in using the timeclock while preventing unwanted overtime and violations of mandated rest periods. Click the check box next to "Courtesy early return acknowledging full lunch period" to enable this option.

Preventing employees from returning early from a lunch break
If you do not want your employees to be able to clock back in too early, check the "Prevent early return _ minutes before lunch period ends" option and set the number of minutes workers may return from their lunch break early.

When the employee attempts to clock in from lunch too early, they receive an error message alerting them that it is too early to clock in and the time when they can clock back in. 

Preventing employees from clocking back in too late
This option is really useful where there when one or more employees abuse lunch periods. When an employee arrives late from lunch, this Virtual TimeClock lunch rules prevents workers from clocking back in when they attempt to clock back in after an established grace period for late returns.

The tardy employee is notified they are late and therefore unable to clock back in. They are referred to a manager or supervisor. This option ensures management is involved as the late arrival occurs. 

Shift rules are applied to either worker schedules or groups. If you are new to working with shifts in Virtual TimeClock, learn more here:


  • You can use all four of these rules separately, or in combination, to create the perfect solution for your business. 
  • Virtual TimeClock 16 has great options for helping with late employees as well. Check them out here.