Rest and Meal Breaks
We all know that a rest is important to ensure that we do not over do it or burn out. The same applies to our workplace. Even if they are small breaks they can add a lot of benefit to our productivity, creativity and problem solving capabilities. Your employer is responsible for paying for your rest breaks. A rest break is a minimum of 10 minutes and the number of breaks that you are entitled to depends on the number of hours you work in a shift.
While your employer must pay for your rest breaks they are not obliged to pay for a meal break unless this has been agreed to in your employment contract with them.
During your employment you are entitled to set rest and meal breaks, meaning that they should be taken roughly or exactly the same time each shift. There are of course exemptions to every rule and rest and meal breaks are no different. In some employment circumstances such as essential services or employers that are engaged in national security, allowances need to be made given that the nature of these roles means that it is almost unlikely rest and meal breaks can be taken at a consistent time every shift.
In these limited circumstances an employer can pay compensation where a break is not taken.
All rest and paid meal breaks should be paid at the same rate that you are paid to work to ensure that there is no financially disadvantaged from taking breaks.
When it comes to employees who work on a piece rate an employer will need to calculate the rate of pay the employee would be receiving if they were working at the time their break was taken. For this reason employers need to ensure that they are keeping accurate records for all of the hours worked.
Breaks are an important part of an employers time at their job. Aside from raising moral and productivity it also ensures that harm caused by fatigue is minimised. The mental and physical well being of a worker can be dramatically changed for the better when adequate breaks are taken. Employers are obligated to take every possible step to ensure that where employees are driving or using heavy machinery, fatigue in the workplace does not cause harm.
Employers aren’t responsible for factors outside of work that lead to fatigue or impact on an employee's ability to cope, but they do have to have systems that identify and deal with these factors when they may affect workplace safety.
If an employee is required to take a break under other legislation, that legislation applies to determine how and when the breaks are to be taken.
For example, the Land Transport Rule: Work Time and Logbooks 2007 made under the Land Transport Act 1998 requires that a 30-minute break is taken after 5 and ½ hours of driving, and must be taken outside of the work vehicle.