Rest and Meal Breaks:
What the 6th of May changes might mean for you
Most employers are aware of the recent changes to rest and meal break legislation that were introduced last month. However, you may still be grappling with what, if any, change is required when you apply the new legislation to your workplace.
Prior to the change, the law stipulated that employees were entitled to receive a ‘reasonable’ opportunity to take rest and meal breaks. The new legislation stipulates that employees are entitled to set breaks based on the number of hours that they work.
What are the entitlements?
|Less than 2 hour total work period||No breaks|
|2 – 4 hour total work period||1 x paid 10min break|
|4.01 – 6 hour total work period||1 x paid 10min break, 1 x unpaid meal break of 30mins|
|6.01 – 10 hour total work period||2 x paid 10min breaks, 1 x unpaid meal break of 30mins|
When should the breaks be taken?
The employer and employee can agree when the rest and meal breaks are to be taken.
- In many office-based roles, the employee will continue to have the responsibility to decide when to take their breaks based on the requirements of their role and their own preferences.
- In other roles and work environments, you may have a roster that sets the rest and meal break times for all employees. This may be changed from time to time – usually in consultation with employees
- You can also agree that flexibility is required around the timing of breaks i.e. “the first paid rest break can be taken at the end point of a production run at any time in the first half of the shift”.
Employers must consider their health and safety obligations in agreeing to the timing of breaks – i.e. in high risk environments or safety sensitive roles, you are obligated to manage the risks that may arise from worker fatigue.
What happens if you can’t agree on the timing of breaks?
The Act does outline the timing of breaks if the employer and employee can’t agree (see below), but also states that the employer can provide breaks at different times if it’s not reasonable or practical for breaks to be taken at the times set in law.
The times outlined in the Act are:
|2 – 4 hour total work period||· 1 x 10 minute paid rest break in the middle of the work period|
|4.01 – 6 hour total work period||· 1 x 10 minute paid rest break one-third of the way through the work period
· 1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break two-thirds of the way through the work period
|6.01 – 10 hour total work period||· 1 x 10 minute paid rest break halfway between the start of work and the meal break
· 1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break In the middle of the work period
· 1 x 10 minute paid rest break halfway between the meal break and the finish of the work period
Remember that even if you have employees that work in an office environment you have an obligation to ensure that breaks are being taken and your staff are sufficiently rested.
Positive People have 24 years experience helping employers develop HR policies and processes which are best practice, minimise risk and help to get the most from your team. Call us today to ensure you have your breaks sorted.