“Hope to god you don’t get thirsty” – A lesson from McDonald’s about breaks

17 Jan 2019

You may have read the recent story about an Australian McDonald’s franchisee getting into hot water when a Manager warned staff about their entitlements to breaks.  In response to demands from staff about their right to 10-minute breaks on shifts of four hours, a Queensland Manager posted on social media:

“Let me clarify for you how this 10-minute break rule actually works.  If you work longer than four hours, you become eligible for a 10-minute break…so for majority of crew you actually probably don’t ever qualify for a 10-minute break.”

It would have been okay if the post stopped there, however the Manager went on to explain the impact of the requested changes:

“On your shift, this 10-minute break would be the only time you would ever be permitted to have a drink or go to the toilet.”

“So I hope to god you don’t get thirsty on your next shift because we just wouldn’t be able to allow a drink.”  

Union officials were quick to act and reported their willingness to take legal action against the franchisee for allegedly misinterpreting workplace rights.  Because Australian employees cannot be barred from the toilet or accessing water. 

In New Zealand the same rights about access to toilets and water apply.  If a business does not allow staff access to these, it would also raise health and safety concerns under the Health and Safety Act 2015. 

While we’re talking about breaks remember that, like Australia, New Zealand will return to having set breaks on 6 May 2019 so pencil that in your calendar. 

What exactly has changed with breaks?  Set rest and meal breaks are back, the number and duration of which depends on the hours worked.  For example:  an 8-hour work day must now include two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one 30-minute unpaid meal break, and a 4-hour work day must include one 10-minute paid rest break. 

We know you’re really busy, so we prepared a table to help you remember rest and meal break entitlements. To access the table, download our member resource below.

Download resource

For more information on what the changes to employment laws will entail, come along to our national roadshow, where our legal adviser and regional managers will be coming to a town near you, to talk more about exactly what this means for you and your business. The roadshow will take place across the country.

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