The government tabled its Employment Relations (Meals and Rest Breaks) Amendment Bill in the House today. I’ve had a brief look at it and what it seems to do is :
- Remove the requirement for breaks to be half an hour for a meal break and ten minutes for a tea break and replace it with a requirement to “provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity during the employees work period for rest, refreshment and attending to personal matters”.
- Provide that the times and duration of the rest and meal breaks are by agreement.
- Provide for “compensatory measures” if the employer doesn’t provide rest breaks.
I’m not going to rush to judgement on this, but I am uneasy about any law that leaves things this wide open. Labour brought in this law for the workers who weren’t getting breaks at all and I can’t see anything in this amended bill that gives me any comfort that we won’t be reverting to the situation we had before the original bill. I am even more uneasy when I see that the bill has to receive consent by 30 December. That means more urgency and no chance for anyone to submit on the bill.