Law change to take away tea breaks

Posted By TEU on Jun 6, 2013 |

Tertiary Update Vol 16 No 18

The government’s proposed new employment law, which had its first reading in parliament this week, includes provisions that will remove people’s guaranteed right to meal and tea breaks.

Currently the law entitles all employees to:

  • one paid 10-minute rest break if their work period is between two and four hours,
  • one paid 10-minute rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is from four to six hours and,
  • two paid 10-minute rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is from six to eight hours.

Many TEU collective agreements include more generous entitlements than this legal minimum.

The government’s proposed new law will remove this legal entitlement to breaks and replace them with a general obligation for your employer to “provide [you] with a reasonable opportunity for rest, refreshment, and attending to personal matters” that is “appropriate for the duration of [your] work period.” When you take these breaks is, unless you agree otherwise, at your employer’s reasonable discretion.

TEU organiser Paul Corliss says these tea breaks are an important health and safety measure, but they also benefit employers through improved productivity.

“Your personal good health and wellbeing are due partly to sufficient breaks for sustenance and mental relaxation. Your work performance and outcomes benefit accordingly.”

Paul Corliss says general and allied staff are most likely to work through some breaks or parts of breaks in order to accommodate either a request for urgency or in order to meet expectations.

“In a general sense, this should be the exception not the rule. The decision needs to absolutely be a personal one, not one directed or imposed by pressures, subtle or otherwise, by a supervisor or manager.”

Paul Corliss worries that the law change will undermine health and safety as well as collegiality.

“Like other aspects of this proposed law, this change will be bad for workers. We need to protect this health and safety entitlement in the law and in our collective agreements.”

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Private data vulnerable at MoE and TEC
  2. Metro ITPs take lobbyist to meet minister
  3. Celebrities’ honorary degrees undermining the real thing?
  4. Marketing focus harming education
  5. Rwanda invests in vocational education and training


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