Food (and Rest) for Thought - Changes to Rest and Meal Break Provisions

On 6th March, 2015 new provisions for rest and meal breaks were introduced into legislation. These provisions are intended to provide greater flexibility to balance providing staff with breaks against operational requirements.

The Act now provides:

  • That employers can make reasonable restrictions on an employee’s rest and meal breaks, where the restriction is necessary considering the nature of the employee’s work, or where the employee and employer agree on the restriction. For example, where an employee is in a sole-charge position it may be a reasonable restriction to require the employee to respond to work demands during their break period.
  • That employers can determine when breaks are taken where the employer and employee cannot agree on the timing and duration of breaks.
  • That an employer does not have to give rest and meal breaks if the nature of the employee’s work is such that breaks cannot reasonably be given, or where the employer and the employee agree, and reasonable compensation is provided for not being able to take a break. Examples of reasonable compensation may include the employer and employee agreeing that the employee finish work earlier than their specified finish time, or be paid an additional amount of extra time on top of hours worked, or accrue time that can then be taken off work on pay.

The new provisions will be particularly beneficial for workplaces where it is impractical to take a break during work, such as employees in a sole charge role or where there it may be better to have two half hour breaks, one for rest and one for meal instead of two rest breaks and one meal break.

Where you have rest and meal breaks specified in employment agreements these must still be observed so long as they are not inconsistent with legislation. Any changes to terms that are specific must be negotiated and agreed.

If you do not have anything specific and you would like to make changes then you can look to make changes. Health and safety and any other legislative requirements still must be considered e.g. specified break times for truck drivers.

If you are looking to change rest and meal breaks for any of your staff contact Grow Human Resources on 06 878 5454 for further advice and information.