Global Compliance Desk – New Zealand

Changes to Rest and Meal Break Entitlement

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 (the Act) introduces several employment law changes that aim to improve fairness in the workplace and deliver decent work conditions and fair wages. Below is some information on what the change to rest and meal break entitlements means for employees and employers when the Act came into effect on May 6, 2019.

Earlier the law required that employees receive a reasonable opportunity to take paid rest and unpaid meal breaks that are of appropriate duration for the employee’s work period, without specifying the number, duration, and position of the breaks within the workday.

The change in the entitlement requires that employees have set rest and meal breaks so that they have time to rest, refresh and attend to personal matters. The number and duration of breaks will depend on the hours worked. For more information on the amendment to rest and meal break please see the FAQ by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.

The Act provides an exemption from the set rest and meal break entitlements in certain circumstances for essential services or employers that engage in New Zealand’s national security. You can find more on the exemption below.

Requirement of Breaks

The employer and employee can agree when the rest and meal breaks are to be taken. Both employers and employees have an obligation to act in good faith when negotiating the timing for breaks. When determining the type of breaks to be provided and the duration and timing of the breaks, employers should take into account the length of an employee’s shift.

Employers would need to consider their health and safety obligations in agreeing to the timing of breaks.

What happens if an employer and employee cannot reach an agreement?

  • Mediation services are available to help parties try to reach an agreement on when breaks can be taken.
  • Businesses can provide breaks at different times if it’s not reasonable and practicable at the times set in law. This is intended to account for individual circumstances across different workplaces. The need to maintain business continuity or production could be a valid reason for an employer to vary the timing of breaks.
  • Where there is no agreement on the timing of breaks then the further away the timing of the breaks are from the timing set in the Act, the greater the justification the employer will need to have for why it was not reasonable and practicable to take the break at or closer to the times set in the Act.

What are the legislative exceptions?

If an employee has to take a specific break under the legislation, that legislation applies instead of any break entitlement under the Employment Relations Act.

Exempt Employers

The Act provides an exemption from providing set rest breaks and meal breaks in certain circumstances for essential services or employers that engage in New Zealand’s national security. The exemption applies in the following two situations if all the conditions are met:

  • If the employer is engaged in an essential service (a service specified in Schedule 1 of the Employment Relations Act 2000) and continuity of service or production in the essential service is critical to the public interest; including (without limitation) services affecting public safety, or;
  • If the employer is engaged in the protection of New Zealand’s national security; and continuity of service is critical to New Zealand’s national security.

If an exempt employer and an employee cannot agree to alternative breaks, the employee is entitled to compensation. The compensation must be reasonable and designed to compensate for the failure to provide set breaks. This may include:

  • Time off work at an alternative time during the employee’s work period, which must be equivalent to and provided on the same basis as the break entitlement the employee would have otherwise received; or
  • Financial compensation which must be calculated at the employee’s ordinary rate of pay, or for an employee on variable rates (such as being paid a piece rate), the rate must be the employee’s average rate of pay in the relevant work period; or
  • Both time off work at an alternative time and financial compensation as long as the compensation together is equivalent to the entitlement the employee would have otherwise received.

Employees should talk to their employer first if they believe they are not allowed their entitled breaks. The Labour Inspectorate expects employers and employees to work out how and when to take applicable breaks. For serious breaches the Labour Inspectorate would likely seek penalties.

Shreya Bhattacharya
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shreya Bhattacharya
A labor and employment lawyer at Replicon who specializes in global compliance. Replicon provides award-winning products that make it easy to manage your workforce. Replicon is an industry leader in global compliance and has a dedicated team which pro-actively monitors international labor regulations for ensuring proper adherence with specific country rule requirements.
Get started today.
Set up a free trial based on your business needs. Start Free Trial

Voices Project management, all grown up

accountingToday | September 17, 2019 By Scott Bales Vice president, Enterprise Solution Engineering and Delivery, Replicon One might assume they already know everything a project manager in a professional services…Read More

Global Compliance Desk – Vietnam

New Draft Version of Vietnamese Labor Code Released A new draft of the proposed Labor Code has recently been released by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).…Read More

Global Compliance Desk – Netherlands

Employment Law Changes 2020 What’s New: The Dutch Senate adopted new legislation to bring the labor market into balance effective January 1, 2020. The new legislation aims to reduce the…Read More

Seven critical ways to achieve global project success

There was once a time when managing a project at work was fairly straightforward. Everyone was in the same location, or at most a mere phone call away. You’d set…Read More

Time and Attendance Orientation Guide

In a growing business, the day will eventually come when managing time and attendance on paper becomes both inefficient and risky, especially when trying to balance things like overtime, paid…Read More

Using shared services? These five technologies are a must

As organizations continue to scrutinize operating costs and look for areas to drive efficiencies, shared services centers (SSCs) are a no-brainer. The concept of a multi-function SSC has been around…Read More
  • Cloud
  • In The News
  • Corporate
  • Professional Services Management
  • Project and Program Management
  • Shared Services Management
  • Time and Attendance Management
  • Workforce Management
  • Customer Feature
  • Feature Update
  • Time Intelligence
  • Industry News
  • Webinar Recap
  • Global Compliance Updates
  • Chat with us
    How can we help you?