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Rest and Meal Breaks 2019

Published 11 Mar 2019

Following the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 from 6 May 2019 all employees will be entitled to the prescribed rest and meal break which, unless the parties agree otherwise, MUST BE TAKEN at the prescribed times. While it may be possible for an employer and employee to agree to change when the breaks happen, they cannot agree to a shorter break length.

If parties do not agree to vary the times the defaults are:

Hours of Work

Rest Break
10 mins paid

Meal break
30 mins unpaid

Rest Break
10 mins paid

2 –4 hours:

In the middle



4 –6 hours:

Rest period 1/3 through

meal 2/3 through


6 –8 hours:

First rest period half way between start and meal.

Meal –half way through work period.

Second rest period half way between meal and end.

8 hours:

Repeat the above pattern



The Act provides for extremely limited exemptions from these requirements only for the purposes of National Security or essential services (as defined in Schedule 1* of the Act). The exception will only apply if continuity of service is critical to the public interest and the employer would incur unreasonable costs. In the absence of agreement the Court or Authority will enforce the provisions of the Act irrespective of how unreasonable that may be or the consequences of such a decision on either the employee or the employer.

*This states that an employer is exempt from the requirement to provide rest breaks and meal breaks if:
a)   The employer is engaged in the protection of New Zealand’s national security, and
b)   Continuity of service is critical to New Zealand’s national security, and
c)   The employer would incur unreasonable costs in replacing the employee during the rest or meal breaks with another person of sufficient skill and experience and without compromising New Zealand’s national security.