Hours of work and wages 

What hours do I have to work? Can my boss change my hours without checking with me?

Before starting a new job, you and your employer should be clear about the hours you will be expected to work. These should be set out in your employment agreement.

Your employer can’t change the work hours that you both agreed to without your agreement - unless your employment agreement contains an express right for your employer to do so. If this is the case your boss still has to act fairly and reasonably before making a change. 

If your employer wishes to change your work hours, they should explain to you why it is necessary and give you time to respond and get independent advice if you want. If this issue can’t be resolved between you and your employer then you can take the matter to mediation. You can call the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) on 0800 20 90 20 or visit their Labour Information website for more information about mediation.

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My employer changed my hours but they don't suit me at all. What should I do?

You should talk to your employer about why you can’t work these hours and ask them to give you hours you can work. If they are unwilling to do this, you can seek independent mediation through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to help sort out the problem. Or, if you are a member of a union, your local union rep should be able to help. 

If mediation doesn't work and you believe your employer has not made a fair and reasonable decision regarding the change in your work hours, you might want to consider raising a personal grievance for unjustified disadvantage. 

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Am I legally required to personally sign and fill out all of my own time sheets?

Your employer is legally obliged to keep and maintain an attendance and leave record for every employee, but there is no legal requirement for employees to do this.
However, completing a time sheet every week might be part of your workplace policy or included in your employment agreement. You can try negotiating with your employer to sort out a system that works for both of you, or both of you may agree to change the employment agreement so that you don’t have to do your own time sheets.

If, as an employee, you forget to fill out your time sheet, your employer can’t withhold payment unless this is specified in your employment agreement. Of course, if your timesheet tells your employer what hours you have worked, they may need that information to work out your wages. Make sure you talk to your employer so you are both clear about the process.

If you and your employer can’t agree on the matter you could try mediation.

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How many paid breaks can I take in my shift?

The number of breaks you should get will depend on how long your shift is.

  • For every shift that lasts between 2 and 4 hours, you can take one paid 10 minute rest break.
  • For every shift that lasts more than 4 hours and up to 6 hours, you can take one paid 10 minute rest break and one unpaid 30 minute meal break.
  • For every shift that lasts more than 6 hours and up to 8 hours, you can take two paid 10 minute rest breaks and one unpaid 30 minute meal break.
  • For shifts that are longer than eight hours, you can take the eight hour entitlement plus additional breaks for each extra two hour period you work, depending on the total length of the shift.

You and your employer can negotiate how and when the breaks are taken as long as you are both in agreement.

In some cases your employer may require you to not take some breaks or to have them at different times, to ensure that the business can smoothly. For example if you have sole charge at a retail outlet you may have to take your breaks only when it’s not busy.

If your employer will not give you rest breaks (for business reasons), they must compensate you for this e.g. by paying you for the time you would have taken as a paid break; or with the same amount of time off at the end of the day.

It’s important to know that even if your employment agreement specifies that you won’t take your lunch breaks (for example), and won’t be compensated for it, you are still entitled to compensation for not being able to take your lunch breaks. If your employer will not allow you to take breaks and will not compensate you for it, you can call the Workplace Contact Centre on 0800 20 90 20 for advice.

Note that in some types of work employees are required to take breaks by law – this includes truck, taxi and tour bus drivers, and some airline flight crew members.

More about meal and rest break entitlements is on the Labour Information website.
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Am I supposed to get extra money for working over-time?

If you are on an hourly wage, then you are paid for each hour worked – this means that you can expect to be paid for any extra hours you work over and above your “normal” work hours.

If you are on a salary, however, the amount you are paid is generally fixed (though it may change from year to year) even if you end up working more hours than are specified in your employment agreement. You may be able to negotiate an arrangement (if there isn’t one already), in which you are compensated with time off (also known as “time in lieu”) which is equivalent to the extra hours you work.

There are no legal requirements for paying overtime above the normal rate of pay unless this is stated in your employment agreement. That is for you and your boss to negotiate. If you feel you haven’t been compensated for your overtime hours then you should speak to your employer and make it clear you aren’t happy.

You can read more about over-time entitlements on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE’s) Labour Information website, or for further help contact them on 0800 20 90 20.

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What are the rules about feeding my baby at work?

So far as it is reasonable and practicable, your employer is required to provide you with adequate breaks and facilities to breast feed, bottle feed and express milk. You will have to negotiate with your employer when you can take these breaks, which are generally unpaid (unless you and your employer agree otherwise). Your employer must provide an appropriate place to feed an infant, which has enough privacy for a mother to breast feed and a fridge or chilly bin to store expressed milk.

The breaks for infant feeding are in addition to your minimum paid breaks as required by law unless you agree to feed your baby or express milk during a paid break. For more information, see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment ‘s (MBIE’s) Labour Information website.