There’s a popular meme showing an empty tea room titled ‘nurses on break’. The punchline underneath ‘Just kidding! Nurses don’t take breaks’.
As grads, its important you start with good habits to avoid burnout and other health issues in the long run.
Meal breaks are essential for keeping up with the physical and mental demands of your shift.
Depending on your EBA, if you don’t take your meal break you should be paid for it. For instance, our 2016 public sector agreement (p.50-51) states:
44.1 Meal breaks
(a) An Employee will be entitled to an unpaid meal break of not less than 30 minutes and not more than 60 minutes. Employees are entitled to leave the ward/unit area during their meal break.
(b) An Employee unable to take a meal break will be paid for the meal break as time worked at the ordinary rate plus 50%.
(c) Where Employees are regularly unable to take their meal breaks, a ‘crib time’ arrangement should operate. The crib time arrangement entitles an Employee to a paid meal interval of not less than twenty minutes to commence between three hours and five hours of duty.
44.2 Tea breaks
Every Employee will be entitled to two paid ten minute tea breaks each shift at a time suitable to the Employer and will be counted as time worked.
45 Rosters (does not apply to casual Employees, DONs or Deputy DONs.)
45.1 The ordinary hours of full-time and part-time Employees will be worked according to a roster of at least 28 days duration, posted at least 14 days before it comes into operation in each work location where it can be readily seen by Employees and representatives of the Employees, including the Unions, without notice.
45.2 Rosters will;
(a) set out:
(i) the Employees’ daily ordinary working hours;
(ii) starting and finishing times;
(iii) meal intervals; and
(b) have a staffing and skill mix that complies with the Safe Patient Care Act if applicable to that ward or unit; and
(c) allocate a Registered Nurse/Midwife to be in charge of each shift.
If you can’t take your meal break, ensure you properly document the reasons why and raise it with your manager at the time via email or communication book, and then put in a claim for payment.
If your employer refuses to pay, then contact Member Assistance for advice and assistance.