COVID-19 response

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Hours, shifts and breaks

Rest breaks and meal breaks

Overview

From May 2019, you have specific rights to rest breaks and meal breaks, including how many breaks you’ll get within a set time and how long the breaks must be for.

What breaks am I entitled to?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69ZD, 69ZG

You’re entitled to the breaks shown in the table below.

However, you and your employer can also agree to longer or extra rest breaks and meal breaks.

Length of your shift

The breaks you’re entitled to

Timing of your breaks

(as below, so far as is reasonable and practicable, and unless you’ve agreed otherwise with your employer)

2 or more hours, up to 4 hours

10-minute paid rest break

Middle of work period

More than 4 hours, up to 6 hours

10-minute paid rest break

One-third through work period

30-minute meal break

Two-thirds through work period

More than 6 hours, up to 8 hours

10-minute paid rest break

Halfway between start of work and meal break

30-minute meal break

Middle of work period

10-minute paid rest break

Halfway between meal break and finish of work

More than 8 hours

10-minute paid rest break

Halfway between start of work and meal break

30-minute meal break

Middle of work period

10-minute paid rest break

Halfway between meal break and finish of work

Additional breaks for any time worked over 8 hours as shown above

Timing according to the length of the additional work period (see above)

What if my employer doesn’t let me have the breaks I’m entitled to?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 69ZF

If your employer doesn’t provide you with the breaks you’re entitled to, you can complain to the Employment Relations Authority and it can make the employer pay a financial penalty (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”).

Different rights for workers in hospitals and other essential services

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69ZEA, 69ZEB

Some workers involved in “essential services” don’t have the right to the set break times set out above. This includes, for example, hospital and ambulance staff, and workers involved with electricity, sewage and water supplies. The exceptions also apply to jobs that involve “national security”.

In these cases you can agree with your employer that you’ll take your breaks at different times or in a different way. If you can’t come to an agreement on this, then your employer has to give you some kind of compensation for not having the breaks that workers in non-essential services get. This compensation could be extra money, or it might be an arrangement like letting you start work later or finish earlier.

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