Career & Education

Shouldn't I be paid for lunchtime?

Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith

Sunday, December 10, 2017

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Dear Career Advisor:

I work from 8:55am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday. That's nine hours, but I get paid only for eight hours. According to my boss, I'm not supposed to get paid for my lunchtime. Is he correct?

I used to work for a government organisation and while working there I went to work at 9 am and left at 5 pm, and I was paid for my 8 hours. Honestly, this situation is frustrating me. Please provide me with some information on this situation.

Thank you


Dear Marsha:

If the duration of your workday is as you have stated, then you are not working nine hours per day. You are at the workplace for five minutes more than eight hours each day. It may be that you made an error and instead meant that you commence work at 7:55 am.

In responding to your question as to whether your boss is correct in not paying you for lunchtime, we will make reference to the response provided to a similar question earlier this year and add that it will depend on what has been agreed on in your contract of employment. The legal reference previously cited is schedule 10 of the Jamaican Shops and Offices Act, which states, inter alia…

“Every person employed in or about the business of any shop shall be allowed —

a) A luncheon interval of not less than three-quarters of an hour during the period between half-past eleven o'clock in the morning and two o'clock in the afternoon on any day on which his hours of employment include the whole of that period.”

Our understanding of this is that although time for lunch is to be provided, the Act does not indicate that the employer must compensate the employee for time taken as lunch break, nor that such time is to be counted as a part of the normal 40-hour workweek.

To avoid further frustration or potential conflict with your employer we suggest that you seek guidance from a labour relations specialist at the Ministry of Labour.


Career Advisor

Carolyn Marie Smith is associate vice-president of student services at Northern Caribbean University in Mandeville, Manchester. Submit your questions to her at




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