New law to force pharmacies to close for lunch?

21:06, Mar 31 2009

A new law about rest breaks may force some pharmacies to close for lunch, the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand says.

Changes to the Employment Relations Act come into force tomorrow, meaning a person working more than four hours is entitled to an unpaid half-hour meal break.

Pharmacy Guild chief executive Annabel Young said under the Medicines Act a pharmacy must be operated with the "immediate supervision and control of a pharmacist".

This meant small pharmacies where only one pharmacist worked would have to close when that person took a lunch break, she said.

However, a spokesman for Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said the Act covered this kind of situation.

"Our advice from the Department of Labour is that the legislation is flexible enough to deal with these concerns in that if breaks can't be scheduled due to certain requirements or commitments then they should be taken 'where reasonable and practicable'."


Also the pharmacist's primary responsibility was to the Medicines Act which trumped the new law, he said.

The new law had also sparked a dispute between Air New Zealand and its traffic controllers, prompting the airline to say the rest breaks would force it to cancel 25 regional flights.

Yesterday Prime Minister John Key said the Government would change the law if the dispute was not settled in a "commonsense way".

However, the airline and traffic controllers reached an agreement last night.