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16.6.1 Ordinary recess


Ordinary recess is not defined in the SRCA, but can broadly be taken to mean formalised breaks in employment for meals or refreshment, or for safety-related purposes.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary includes the following relevant definitions:

ordinary adj. 1 regular, normal, customary, usual ... commonplace

recess noun. 3 a temporary cessation from work, esp. of Parliament, or US of a law court or during a school day

In Drummond v Drummond (1960), a Full Bench of the Supreme Court of Victoria stated that a recess was:

...a relatively brief interruption in an otherwise continuous period of work. It is normally associated with rest, refreshment or relaxation such as ordinarily occurs at regular times, such as lunchtime, morning or afternoon tea or 'smoko'. It is a period of rest incidental to a period of labour.

Depending on the facts of the case, ordinary recesses would usually include:

  • lunch breaks, including going home for lunch
  • short smoking breaks
  • morning and afternoon tea breaks
  • toilet breaks.

Particular issues may arise in relation to flexitime and leaving the work place during work time. These are discussed below.