In a landmark decision for the Meat Industry, the Employment Court has determined that the requirement to don and doff protective hygiene clothing and equipment at the beginning and end of each shift and at rest and meals breaks is “work” under s 6 of the Minimum Wage Act for which the minimum wage should be paid.
Donning and doffing has been a growing concern of NZ meat workers in the industry and this court action follows other cases where "work" has been more broadly defined, such as Idea Services and Smiths City.
As the requirements around hygiene, food safety, export standards and other regulations have increased, so has the responsibility of meat workers to meet these requirements in their own time before and after work, and before and after paid and unpaid breaks.
The process of "donning and doffing" is clearly outlined in the Court Judgement. Anecdotal research by the MWU has shown that many meat workers have a bigger encroachment on their time, including rest breaks and unpaid meal breaks.
So what's next?
This case sets a precedent. It remains to be seen whether the Meat Industry will step up and acknowledge the unpaid work they have been increasingly requiring of their workers.
But what's clear is the Courts are increasingly of the view that the amount of unpaid work by a range of workers, whether they be in social services, retail, and now manufacturing has to come to an end.