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Rest and meal breaks

All employers are 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.

The Amendment aims to improve health and safety in workplaces and increase productivity by establishing a minimal standard across all industries.

What you’re entitled to

Employees will be entitled to the following paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks:

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 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 provisions do not affect existing agreements that provide for additional paid or unpaid rest breaks and meal breaks.

Legislative exemptions

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.

Compliance

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.