Wellington, June 17 NZPA - Employees forced to work through their break may be compensated with a muffin if new legislation is passed, Labour MP Darien Fenton says.
The Employment Relations (Rest and Meal Breaks) Amendment Bill would amend the 2008 Act which was too prescriptive.
Ms Fenton said the bill enabled employers to place restrictions on breaks, such as requiring a worker to be on call or work through a break.
Compensation could be provided where a break was not taken, but that could be as little as a muffin or bottle of wine, she said.
"No one would have an issue with the need for flexibility in some cases, as long as employers were required to pay reasonable compensation in return."
The bill overlooked the fact that in many workplaces employees were not paid for a half hour meal break.
"So what we have now is a proposed law where workers could be required to provide free labour and to forfeit breaks for whatever the employer decides they should be compensated with."
Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said she would expect the select committee considering the bill, of which Ms Fenton was a member, to highlight any gaps or problems with the bill.
There needed to be a balance between flexibility and certainty, she said.
"If you see some gaps that you think would, or could, result in exploitation (of workers) I would certainly welcome that feedback."