Employment Law Update

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 (“ERAA”) has reinstated mandatory rest and meal break periods which came into effect 6 May 2019.

Under the previous law, there had been no general requirement to provide rest and meal breaks after a specific time. The law was for employers and employees to negotiate in good faith as to when rest and meal breaks would be taken to allow more flexibility in the workplace, and allowing employers to compensate employees for working through lunch breaks.

The law has now been amended by the ERAA to reinstitute mandatory breaks after certain periods of work (the default is a 10 minute break after 2 hrs, then a 30 minute break after 4 hrs, then another 10 minute break after 6 hrs). It is these ERAA rest break periods that are now required to be complied with. The ERAA overrides any guidelines that are currently in force.

Most employers cannot contract out of these provisions, as the only businesses that have the ability to do this are ‘essential services’ provided at Schedule 1 of the Employment Relations Act (emergency, hospital and utility services mainly). However, the timings of when rest breaks are taken can be agreed between employer and employee (within reason).

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