Hours, shifts and breaks


What are the minimum breaks I am entitled to?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69ZD, 69ZG

If you work these hours
You are entitled to these breaks
Less than 2 hours No breaks
2 or more hours, less than 4 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
4 or more hours, less than 6 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break
6 or more hours, less than 10 2 x 10 minute paid rest break
1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break
10 or more hours, less than 12 3 x 10 minute paid rest break
1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break
12 or more hours, less than 14 3 x 10 minute paid rest break
2 x 30 minute unpaid meal break
14 or more hours, less than 16 4 x 10 minute paid rest break
2 x 30 minute unpaid meal break


You and your employer should agree on the time the breaks will be taken. This will usually be spaced out across the length of your shift, so you have a break every few hours. If you can’t agree on when the breaks will be, your employer should follow the rules set out by Employment NZ, here (you can also go to www.employment.govt.nz and search “rest and meal breaks” to find these guidelines).

At minimum, you will be paid for every 10-minute rest break. Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for any 30-minute meal breaks.

For example, if you are at work for 7 hours, you are entitled to two paid 10 minute breaks, and one unpaid 30 minute break. You will be paid for 6.5 hours in total.

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 ERA and it can make the employer pay a financial penalty (see: “Resolving employment problems”).

What if I’m an essential worker?

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 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.

Next Section | Breastfeeding at work

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Online: communitylaw.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pregnancy-Manual_PDF-for-Web_2021.pdf
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of information on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Hours and wages: www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages
Leave and holidays: www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays
Workplace policies: www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

Website: www.union.org.nz
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz
Phone: (04) 385 1334

Labour inspectorate

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa/Worksafe New Zealand

Worksafe is New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator.  The website contains a range of information on workplace health and safety.

Phone: 0800 030 040
Notify Worksafe online: www.worksafe.govt.nz/notify-worksafe

Parental leave payments

For more information on parental leave see Inland Revenue’s website.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies. In the employment context, you can make a protected disclosure (known as whistle-blowing).

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602
Whistle-blowing/protected disclosure information: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/what-ombudsman-can-help/serious-wrongdoing-work-whistleblowing

To make a complaint online: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/get-help-public

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