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Rest breaks and meal breaks


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. You are entitled to paid rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.

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)

2–4 hours

10-minute paid rest break

Middle of work period

4–6 hours

10-minute paid rest break

One-third through work period

30-minute meal break

Two-thirds through work period

6–8 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 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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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options during 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.

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Phone (04) 499 2928

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Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

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

Labour inspectors

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

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa


Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments


The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)


Free phone: 0800 802 602
Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


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

The NZCTU 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.

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