We all look forward to having a break during the work day – getting away from the computer or the workshop, having a cuppa, stepping outside for some fresh air, getting off our feet for a couple of minutes.
Under National’s proposed changes to our employment laws, workers might not have a break to look forward to.
They want to take away the guaranteed minimum rest breaks which are currently in the law and replace them with a general obligation for your employer to give you “a reasonable opportunity” to get a break.
If you and your employer can’t agree on what that “reasonable opportunity” means, guess who gets the final say? Your employer, of course. And if they think it’s not “reasonable” to give you a break at all? You could be working a very long shift without a single cuppa or smoko.
Meal and rest breaks are an essential part of having a healthy and safe workplace. Working long stretches without a break contributes hugely to errors and accidents.
Yes, your employer will have to compensate you for the lack of breaks – but that’s going to be cold comfort when you’re totally worn out or even get injured on the job due to tired workers making mistakes.
People who have a collective agreement will probably have guaranteed rest breaks, so they’ll be okay for now. Workers on individual agreements won’t be so lucky.
You can do something to stop this from happening. On 30 October, workers across New Zealand will be saying Give Us a Break – not take our breaks away.
Get your workmates together, have a coffee, a tea or a smoko, and send your photo in to join the hundreds of others who want the Government to Give Us a Break.
Sign up for the Give Us a Break national day of action.
The current law
Under our current employment laws your employer is obliged to give you, at a minimum, a paid 10-minute break for every four hours you work in a stretch, plus a 30-minute meal break if you work more than four hours.