Breaks — business.govt.nz
Skip to main content Skip to page navigation

In association with

Breaks

Your employees need downtime to rest, eat and take care of personal tasks. They get paid during rest breaks, but not during meal breaks. Time out helps your people stay focused during their working day, and prevents overtiredness.

From 6 May 2019, employees must get paid and unpaid breaks. This page sets out the new rules.

From 6 May 2019, employees must get paid and unpaid breaks. This page sets out the new rules.

What you need to know

All employees must have paid 10-minute rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks, based on the number of hours worked. This is set out in the Employment Relations Act.

The only exceptions are for a few essential services and only in certain circumstances. For example, if public safety will be put at risk and no-one suitable to provide cover is available.

You must:

  • give your workers at least the minimum number and length of breaks, eg 10-minute paid rest break
  • pay employees for their 10-minute rest breaks — if you agree to longer rest breaks, you only have to pay for the first 10 minutes
  • make sure employees doing physically hard work get enough breaks to avoid overtiredness
  • factor in enough breaks for employees doing shifts, overtime or working on commission
  • fair when working out times and number of breaks — it helps to spread breaks evenly across the work period
  • try to agree with employees when to take breaks.

If you employ truck drivers or pilots, follow any other laws that affect when and how these workers take breaks.

You can also:

  • use break times set out in the law if you and your employees can’t agree on timing, as long as it’s reasonable for someone to stop work then — see How to calculate break times below
  • include details of breaks in your employment agreements.

You must not:

  • refuse to let people take breaks
  • give compensation for untaken breaks — it’s not OK to pay someone extra or let them leave early if they don’t take breaks
  • ignore the risks posed by overtired employees — these risks will vary from business to business.

Rest and meal breaks (external link) — Employment New Zealand

Breastfeeding breaks — Compliance Matters

Breaks (external link) — Employment Agreement Builder

If too few breaks leads to injury or illness, you could be held responsible under health and safety laws.

If too few breaks leads to injury or illness, you could be held responsible under health and safety laws.

How to calculate break times

Rest breaks must be at least 10 minutes and must be paid for. Meal breaks must be at least 30 minutes, and are unpaid.

When scheduling breaks, it’s a good idea to work out meal times first, then rest times.

  1. Add up how many hours the employee will work on the day. If they work overtime — or you think they might — make sure you include these hours.
  2. Check the minimum number and types of breaks the employee must receive — see By law: Break times if you can't agree for guidance. You can give more and/or longer breaks, especially if this helps meet your health and safety obligations.
  3. Think about workflows as you plan break times. When makes sense for people to take time out? Would staggered breaks work for your business and your people?
  4. Talk with your employee(s) about when to take breaks.
  5. If you both agree, use those times. If possible, record the timing and length of breaks in the employment agreement. If you cannot agree, use the timings set out in By law: Break times if you can't agree.

Examples

Three hours at work: Mike works from 7pm to 10pm with this agreed break:

  • 9pm paid rest break

8-hour day: Tulissa is at work from 9am to 5pm with these agreed breaks:

  • mid-morning 10-minute paid rest break
  • 1pm 30-minute unpaid meal break
  • mid-afternoon 10-minute paid rest break

12-hour shift: Abi works from 7am to 7pm with these agreed breaks:

  • 9am 10-minute paid rest break
  • 11am to 11.30am unpaid meal break
  • 1.30pm 10-minute paid rest break
  • 5.15pm 10-minute paid rest break

Break times if you can’t agree

These are the minimum break timings required by law. The aim is for rest and meal breaks to be spread evenly across the work period.

Use these timings if you and your employees cannot agree when to take breaks. Or use this as a guide to spacing out rest and meal breaks across different work periods.

2 to 4 hours at work

Meal break:

None needed.

Rest break:

One 10-minute paid break in the middle of the work period.

4+ to 6 hours at work

Meal break:

One 30-minute unpaid break, taken two-thirds of the way through work.

Rest break:

One 10-minute paid break, taken one-third of the way through work.

6+ to 10 hours at work

Meal break:

One 30-minute unpaid break in the middle of the work period.

Rest breaks:

Two 10-minute paid breaks, taken:

  1. halfway between start time and meal break
  2. halfway between meal break and end of work

10+ to 12 hours at work

Meal break:

One 30-minute unpaid break 4 hours after starting work.

Rest breaks:

Three 10-minute paid breaks, taken:

  1. two hours after starting work
  2. halfway between end of meal break and end of first 8 hours work
  3. halfway between end of first 8 hours and end of work

Example: Hemi works an 11-hour day from 7am to 6pm. His first 8 hours of work ends at 3.30pm (his meal break doesn’t count toward total work hours).

Unless Hemi and the employer agree different times, breaks must be taken at about:

  • 9am to 9.10am rest break
  • 11am to 11.30am meal break
  • 1.30pm to 1.40pm rest break
  • 4.45pm to 4.55pm rest break

12+ to 14 hours at work

Meal breaks:

Two 30-minute unpaid breaks, taken:

  1. four hours after starting work
  2. two-thirds between end of first 8 hours and end of work

Rest breaks:

Three 10-minute paid breaks, taken:

  1. two hours after starting work
  2. halfway between end of meal break and end of first 8 hours work
  3. one-third between end of first 8 hours work and end of work

Example: Mariko’s working day is 12 and a half hours long, from 8am to 8.30pm. Mariko’s first 8 hours of work ends at 4.30pm (meal breaks don’t count toward total working hours).

Unless Mariko and the employer agree different times, breaks must be taken at about:

  • 10am to 10.10am rest break
  • 12pm to 12.30pm first meal break
  • 2.30pm to 2.40pm rest break
  • 5.50pm to 6pm rest break
  • 7.10pm to 7.40pm second meal break

14+ to 16 hours work

Meal breaks:

Two 30-minute unpaid breaks, taken:

  1. four hours after starting work
  2. halfway between end of first 8 hours and end of work.

Rest breaks:

Four 10-minute paid breaks, taken:

  • two hours after starting work
  • halfway between end of meal break and end of first 8 hours work
  • halfway between end of first 8 hours and second meal break
  • halfway between end of second meal break and end of work.

Example: Chris does a 16-hour shift, from 5pm Monday to 9am Tuesday. Chris’s first 8 hours of work ends at 1.30am (meal breaks don’t count toward total working hours).

Unless Chris and the employer agree different times, breaks must be taken at about:

  • 7pm to 7.10pm rest break
  • 9pm to 9.30pm first meal break
  • 11.30pm to 11.40pm rest break
  • 3am to 3.10am rest break
  • 4.45am to 5.15am second meal break
  • 7am to 7.10am rest break
Don’t pay employees extra instead of taking a break.

Don’t pay employees extra instead of taking a break.

This is now illegal. The only exceptions are for workers providing a few essential services.

Rating form

How useful did you find this information?

Rate this