Home | Clinical Practice | Meal breaks: On call but unpaid in brief

Meal breaks: On call but unpaid in brief

Three nurses from Wynnum Hospital, Brisbane, are the subject of a dispute over interrupted meal breaks.

Currently before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, the matter was lodged on behalf of the nurses by the Queensland Nurses’ Union (QNU).

“They get a half-hour unpaid meal break, but in this scenario it is a small facility and they cannot get released,” said Beth Mohle, Queensland Nurses’ Union Secretary. “So we think that they should be paid overtime for that half hour.”

Queensland Health agrees that if the nurses are interrupted, they should get overtime; however, the union is pushing for nurses to get paid overtime on a regular basis if they can’t leave the premises.

Mohle said: “[Queensland Health is] really is just relying on their goodwill. They know that nurses won’t leave [colleagues and patients] in the lurch.”

This dispute comes as the union files another lawsuit against the state government on behalf of nurses inadequately compensated for waiving their 10-hour break between shifts.

Currently, four applications have been lodged on behalf of nurses in the Industrial Magistrates Court, with another 92 possible applications being considered.

“Under the award, nurses and midwives must have a minimum ten-hour break between shifts. This can be altered to eight hours by written agreement between the nurse or midwife and their employer.

“For example, we have one case where we are alleging the award has been breached on about 30 occasions in the past three years, and we estimate the award provides for about $7500 in compensation. Another case involves about 80 alleged award breaches over 5.5 years and we calculate compensation at about $17,000.

“These shift-break provisions are in the award not only for the benefit of workers. They are there to protect safe patient care, which could easily be compromised by the presence of fatigued nurses and midwives.”

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *