Rest and Meal Breaks: An Update

The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union in Australia has been putting pressure on McDonalds outlets to give their employees 10 minute rest breaks in order to comply with a condition in their workplace agreements. However, McDonalds caused controversy when they told their employees that if they are to continuing to push for their right to have 10-minute breaks on four hour shifts, they will not be allowed to have a drink or use the bathroom at any other time during their shift.

Currently there are no specific requirements as to the timing or duration of rest or meal breaks in New Zealand. However, the law is about to change. As of 6 May 2019 the timing and duration of these breaks will once again be prescribed in legislation.

Under the new law, if an employee’s work period is 2 hours or more but not more than 4 hours, the employee will be entitled to one 10-minute paid rest break. If an employee’s work period is more than 4 hours but not more than 6 hours, the employee will be entitled to one 10-minute paid rest break; and one 30-minute meal break. If an employee’s work period is more than 6 hours but not more than 8 hours, the employee will be entitled to two 10-minute paid rest breaks; and one 30-minute meal break. If an employee’s work period is 8 hours, the employee is entitled to two 10-minute paid rest breaks, and one 30-minute meal break. Finally, if an employee works more than 8 hours (subsequent period), the employee will be entitled to the following:

  • if the subsequent period is 2 hours or more but not more than 4 hours, to one 10-minute paid rest break;
  • if the subsequent period is more than 4 hours but not more than 6 hours, to one 10-minute paid rest break; and one 30-minute meal break; or
  • if the subsequent period is more than 6 hours but not more than 8 hours, to two 10-minute paid rest breaks; and one 30-minute meal break.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has said that the changes (which are effectively a roll back of the previous law) have a very tight criteria, but will include exceptions for some workplaces where it is not practical for workers to take breaks at the same time (which will enable the employee an employer to agree to alternative break timings), or the employer is exempt from the prescribed requirements.

Actions that are considered to fall within employees’ break times have also been considered by the Employment Court. In Ovation New Zealand Limited v The New Zealand Meat Workers and Related Trades Union Incorporated workers won the right for “donning and doffing” of work gear to be excluded from their break times, as it was considered “work” for the purposes of section 6 of the Minimum Wage Act 1983. It was considered part of the mandatory health and safety regime and therefore part of their work so the time it took to “don and “doff” their work gear was to be additional to their allocated break time.

Workplace Law Team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other workplace law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law Team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Kathryn McKinney, Siobhan Rastrick, Hannah Martin; Holly Struckman; Anna Needham; Alex Beal
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Nicky Robertson, Hetish Lochan, Daniel Kruger, Julia Strickett, Rita Worner, Lavinia Shanks, Winnie Chen, Caroline Edwards, Ken Huang, Sally Stone, Mary Zhou, Sarah Kirkwwood, Lingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

Contact

Andrew Shaw
Partner, Lane Neave

t +64 3 353 8014
m +64 29 244 9001
e andrew.shaw@laneneave.co.nz

Fiona McMillan
Partner, Lane Neave

t +64 9 300 6264
m +64 27 351 2000
e fiona.mcmillan@laneneave.co.nz

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