From 1 April 2009, all employers will be required to provide employees with paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.
These provisions come into force as a result of the Employment Relations
(Breaks, Infant Feeding, and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2008 passed in September 2008.
The Amendment aims to improve health and safety in workplaces and increase productivity by establishing a minimal standard across all industries.
Rest and meal breaks
Employees will be entitled to the following paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks:
- one paid 10-minute rest break if their work period is between two and four hours;
- one paid 10-minute rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is between four and six hours;
- two paid 10-minute rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is between six and eight hours.
If more than an eight hour period is worked, these requirements automatically extend to cover the additional hours on the same basis.
Timing of rest and meal breaks
The timing of rest and meal breaks is flexible and can follow any arrangement agreed between employer and employee.
If an agreement can’t be reached, the rest and meal breaks should be spread evenly throughout the work period, where reasonable and practicable.
Additional rest and meal breaks
The Amendment’s provisions will establish minimal standards that apply across all industries.
Employers and employees are free to agree to additional entitlements to rest and meal breaks — either paid or unpaid.
The new provisions will not affect existing agreements that provide for additional paid or unpaid rest breaks and meal breaks.
Where an employee is required to take a rest break under another enactment, that enactment applies instead of the entitlements to rest and meal breaks under the Act. This would include, for example, the Land Transport Rule: Work Time and Logbooks 2007 made under the Land Transport Act 1998.
Employers may be liable to a penalty imposed by the Employment Relations Authority if they do not comply with minimal standards for paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.
The Authority will also have the power to order employers to comply with their obligations.