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Some business owners will consider their employees to be their most significant assets. If this is the case for you, you want to ensure your business treats them in the best way possible. One such way is by giving employees breaks throughout the day. This allows them to rest and recharge before getting back into work. These breaks also give employees time to eat and drink. Employees are legally entitled to paid breaks depending on how many hours they work and their type of employment. A common type of employment in New Zealand is a casual employee. This article will outline what a casual employee is and how many breaks they are entitled to. 

What Is a Casual Employee?

Although common, New Zealand employment legislation does not define a casual employee. Instead, it is a term that businesses typically use to describe a situation where an employee works in an irregular pattern. This means they are not guaranteed any work and are usually only called upon when the business is short-staffed or extremely busy. The employee does not have to accept work either. Though note, this should not have any bearing on the continuation of the contract.

Every time the employee works, the law treats it as new employment. Consequently, as an employer, you must follow all relevant laws. The difference between a casual employee and a part-time employee is that a casual employee does not have any set hours. Likewise, a casual employee may not receive the same benefits as a part-time employee. However, a part-time employee will usually have a guaranteed number of hours that the employer has to give them. 

What Constitutes a Break?

A break is a period of time in which an employee is not expected to do any work. As an employer, the law does not permit you to get your employees to work on their break. Additionally, your employees can leave the workplace as long as they are back before their break has expired. Some workplaces will have break rooms that allow employees to take their breaks away from where they usually conduct their work. 

Types of Breaks

Breaks can either be paid or unpaid depending on an employees entitlements. Generally, you pay employees for paid breaks at the same rate as if they are working. Breaks are designated as either rest breaks or meal breaks. A rest break is 10 minutes long, and a meal break is 30 minutes long. Rest breaks are paid, and meal breaks are unpaid. 

How Many Breaks Are Casual Employees Allowed?

The amount of hours a casual employee works determines the number of breaks that they can receive in one shift. Therefore, the break allocation for a casual employee is no different from the break allocation for any other employee if they work the same amount of hours a day. 

Importantly, employers must remember that the term casual employee is a description of their type of employment. It does not indicate their rights once they are working. Accordingly, the table below shows what breaks an employee may receive depending on how many hours they work.

Hours WorkedEntitled Breaks
2-4 hours
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break

4-6 hours

  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 30-minute unpaid meal break
6-10 hours
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 30-minute unpaid meal break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break

10-12 hours worked

  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 30-minute unpaid meal break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
12-14 hours worked
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • First 30 minute unpaid meal break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • Second 30-minute unpaid meal break
14-16 hours worked
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • First 30 minute unpaid meal break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break
  • Second 30-minute unpaid meal break
  • 1 x 10 minute paid rest break

Key Takeaways

Employers must give their employers breaks during their working day. This is so employees do not become overworked and can work as efficiently as possible. New Zealand employment law mandates an employee’s right to a break, though employees and employers can negotiate specific times breaks can occur within a shift. For casual employees who work in an irregular schedule, the law treats them the same as any other employee when it comes to breaks. How many hours an employee works determines the amount of breaks and whether you must pay them. Rest breaks are paid, whereas meal breaks are unpaid.
For legal assistance managing paid breaks, contact
LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there situations where I do not have to give breaks?

Yes, certain professions are permitted not to offer breaks. However, these are rare and you must compensate your employees in another way.

What happens if I do not offer breaks?

If you do not offer your employees breaks, you could receive a fine. Likewise, you risk your employee making a complaint and taking you to the Employment Tribunal.

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