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  • Writer's pictureMathews Walker Team

How many breaks should I get at work?

In New Zealand, there are laws in place to make sure employees are all getting the rest and meal breaks they're entitled to at work. let's dive into what you're entitled to...

Break time at work

According to the Employment Relations Act 2000, employees are entitled to rest and meal breaks based on how long they've been working

  • Rest Breaks: For every four hours worked, employees are entitled to an paid 10-minute rest break.

  • Meal Breaks: After working for six hours, employees are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute meal break.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Employers can't force you to skip your breaks without your agreement.

  • In certain industries, like healthcare or emergency services, things might work a bit differently because of the nature of the job and it may not be practical to just stop for a break. You're still entitled to breaks though and your employer should be able to agree with you on how this will work.

  • If you agree to be compensated because you sometimes aren't able to take breaks, this should not be the norm and should be a last resort. Having breaks is an important part of your rest and wellbeing.

  • An employer can't contract out of your minimum entitlements, so they can't provide less just because it's written in the employment agreement.

If you're not getting breaks?

  • The first step is to talk to your employer and raise this as an issue.

  • If this doesn't help remedy the situation, you could speak to a union rep, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) or engage a representative to help advocate for your rights.

  • If this gets you nowhere, you may need to take legal action. We'd recommend seeking legal advice if you're worried you're not getting your legal entitlements.

At the end of the day, breaks at work aren't just a nice-to-have or a legal requirement – they're essential for your well-being. Getting breaks helps employees stay happy, healthy, and productive in the workplace.


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