Three McDonald’s are at the centre of a Federal Court battle over paid downtime that could have nationwide implications.
Three McDonald’s are at the centre of a Federal Court battle over paid downtime that could have nationwide implications.

Macca’s faces landmark case over workers’ breaks

One of the state's largest unions has launched a landmark legal attack on global fast food franchise McDonald's over alleged failures to give workers at three Adelaide outlets paid breaks.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, which represents fast food workers, will lodge the documents in the Adelaide registry of the Federal Court today.

The case has the potential to affect the more than 100,000 staff employed at more than 970 McDonald's restaurants across Australia.

The union alleged that staff at McDonald's outlets in Felixstow, Frewville and Mount Barker were deliberately denied paid rest and drink breaks.

According to the enterprise agreement which covers all McDonalds workers, any employee who works longer than four hours is entitled to a ten minute paid drink break.

Any employee working longer than nine hours gets a second paid drink break included in their pay.

In court documents seen by The Advertiser the union alleges that 14 current and previous staff across the three restaurants were denied those breaks.


The range of time in which they were denied breaks 2017 though some workers had been employed by McDonald's as early as 2011.

Further, the documents allege that the denial of those breaks was part of a "systematic pattern of conduct" in which the breaks were not recognised on rosters or explained to workers.

The SDA allege that workers complained about the lack of breaks or requested to take the drink breaks but were told they were not entitled to stop working for that period.

The information new employees receive states that they are to remain in their "rostered position whilst on shift".

They were prohibited from using their phones or eating whilst on shift.

The written instructions given to workers also did not state that they were entitled to the break.

The SDA alleges that the workers suffered the loss of the "physical and psychological benefits" of a break and had suffered additional "disbenefits" of having to work through the shift without the down time.

Former McDonald's shift manager Jordan Reiha, 22, said he had worked at one of the restaurants for two years but had never been told about the mandated breaks.

"I don't think any of my co-workers received paid breaks either," he said.

"I worked really long shifts at McDonald's. I often worked overtime, sometimes til midnight without extra pay. I never complained."

Another former shift manager Madeleine Liliburn, 23, said that in her three years with McDonalds, she did not receive the break.

SDA South Australian Secretary Josh Peak said the breaks weren't optional, but were a worker's right.

"We will allege that this wasn't just a slip up but that McDonald's intentionally denied workers their paid breaks," he said.

"McDonald's is one of the largest employers of young people in Australia and they have a duty to their workers. They must do better."

"If you are a current or former McDonald's worker and did not receive your paid rest breaks you should contact the SDA."

A McDonald's spokeswoman said the company was unaware of the impending lawsuit.

"We have yet to receive notification of the suggested filing with the Federal Court and are unable to comment further at this time," she said.


Originally published as Macca's faces landmark case over workers' breaks