Webtimeclock Blog

What is Meal Period Premium Pay?

Aug 11, 2023
For California, meal period premium pay is one additional hour of pay for employees that miss their 30-minute lunch break... but only when certain conditions apply.

First... when the employee's shift is more than 5 hours.

Second... when the employer does not relieve the employee of all duties for at least 30 minutes before the end of the 6th hour. Or a second 30-minute break before the end of the 12th hour.

Or third... when the employer requires the employee to stay on site during the break, even if the employee receives the full break.

How much is the premium?
One hour of pay at the employee's regular rate... for any or all meal breaks prevented by the employer per day.

Are meal period premiums wages?
Yes, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court, meal period premiums are wages, not penalties.

How many meal period premiums per day?
Only one, even if the employer prevented two meal breaks over 10 hours. However, an employee could receive one more premium for any (or all) required 10-minute rest breaks prevented by the employer per day.

What if an employee volunteers to work through lunch?
If the employer has relieved the employee of all duties and allows the break, but the employee works through lunch anyway, then the premium does not apply. However, if the employer knows the employee worked through lunch, the employer must pay for every minute the employee worked.

Does the additional hour of pay count towards overtime?
No, the additional hour of pay is not considered an hour of work and should not be calculated towards overtime.

How should meal period premium pay be entered on a timesheet?
Consider entering the hour as benefit hours, not regular hours. That way, they will not calculate toward overtime. With Webtimeclock, create an earning code named Premium Hours and apply that to the timesheet.

For further details, please reference the California Department of Industrial Relations article on meal breaks.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to be legal advice. For that, we recommend consulting with a licensed attorney.

Webtimeclock is an online time clock plus optional online payroll. Have questions? Contact our support team, or call us at 1-800-450-2692. Sign up today for your free 15-day trail. We are located in San Diego (Carlsbad), CA USA.