Instacart Break Policy (All You Need To Know)

Gig workers all over the country are throwing off the normal 9-5 office jobs and embracing a more flexible and convenient way of earning money.

If you know anything about Instacart shoppers, you are probably aware that they put the “independent” in independent contractor, and there is no one micromanaging them.

But how do they take breaks during shifts? Is it as simple as logging out of the app? What is Instacart’s break policy? I’m breaking it all down (pun intended) for you below.

What Is Instacart’s Break Policy In [currentyear]?

When full-service shoppers schedule three or four shifts (of two hours) in a day, they can take a 20-minute break in-between. In-store shoppers receive a 10-minute paid break for every four hours of work. Unauthorized breaks that affect shopping and/or delivery times can be subject to reliability incidents.

To learn more about Instacart’s overall break policy (and what you can do if your shifts don’t merit one), an explanation of reliability incidents, the new online/offline feature on the Instacart app and much more, keep going!

Does Instacart Give You A Break?

While the buzz around Instacart is that you can work on your own schedule and there is a lot of flexibility built in, you do still have to play by certain rules.

Among those is Instacart’s break policy, even for full-service shoppers.

To ensure that you are maximizing your time spent “clocked in” on your shift, for every three hours you sign up to work, Instacart gives you a 20-minute break.

According to my research, a “Break” button appears during the shift and Instacart shoppers can press on it when they want to take some time to grab a bite or use the restroom.

That said, if you can grab a water or soda while checking out (using your own personal money, of course), you don’t necessarily need a full break to sip something while driving.

Restrooms are another issue, though.

There have been reports that restaurants and grocery stores deny gig workers access to their facilities, on the grounds that “they’re not customers.”

It does seem patently unfair that this should happen, as well as the fact that Instacart shoppers can get dinged for bathroom emergencies beyond their control.

Does Instacart Punish You For Not Accepting Batches?

Does Instacart Punish You For Not Accepting Batches?

Anecdotally, it does appear that Instacart shoppers have been “punished” for not accepting batches while they were active.

In fact, a 2019 article from Eater reported, “If a batch is rejected, workers may have their delivery opportunities taken away for the rest of the day.”

It continues, “And their “reliability” score [is] decreased — meaning they receive fewer delivery opportunities.”

The reliability score, a product of any reported reliability incidents, can have a seriously detrimental effect on a shopper’s ability to earn money.

According to a report from Vox, four reliability incidents leads to limited available hours, and it puts a major restriction on when you can access the scheduling tool.

So if you need to take a break but you already used up the one given to you by your shift, it’s best to do so as quickly as possible – or risk getting a reliability incident.

What Is An Instacart Reliability Incident?

I’ve mentioned reliability incidents a few times, and they’re basically write-ups or warnings for Instacart shoppers.

It’s the app’s way of saying, “Hey, don’t do that again.” They’re doled out when you were supposed to be doing something, but you weren’t there doing it.

For example, you could get a reliability incident for being late to your shift or, as mentioned in the section above, for not accepting a batch.

As I stated, when they add up to four, Instacart starts to come down on the shopper for repeated violations.

They’ll make it harder for that shopper to get the shifts they want, which can affect how much money they end up earning.

All told, reliability incidents are “are put in place to ensure we can offer a consistently beneficial experience to both our customers and our shoppers,” according to an Instacart rep.

How Do You Go Online/Offline With Instacart?

This super informative YouTuber discusses the new (as of 2021) feature on the Instacart Shopper app, which allows shoppers to go online and offline.

It’s a button on the app, and while it seems straight-forward, it does change how shoppers are able to operate.

As JEN-on-the-GO! Outlines, you can’t actually see batches until you go online, a change from when you could view them without being “active.”

Plus, if you’re marked as “online,” but not accepting batches, you could be punished for that more easily.

The plus is that when you go offline, that’s it – you’re done, and you’re not being annoyed by further batch notifications.

The online/offline button is certainly a more finite beginning and end to a shift.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether or not Instacart pays daily, Instacart background check, Instacart facts, and if Instacart hires felons.


While Instacart does offer shoppers the flexibility to choose their hours, how many hours, etc., it does have a surprisingly strict break policy of one 20-minute pause per three-hour shift.

The shoppers seem to feel that, as independent contractors, they should not be micromanaged during their shifts – and they might have a point.

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Cara Suppa

Cara Suppa has been freelance writing for over a decade and holds a BA in English and an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. Outside of work, she is an avid cook, gardener, and discount shopper.

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