Know your rights: Delayed meal breaks for screen crew
As screen crew across the country campaign for improved working conditions to combat burn out and fatigue, MEAA reminds members of their right to a meal break in line with the terms of the MEAA/SPA Motion Picture Production Agreement (MPPA).
When do they apply?
Under the MPPA, meal breaks of 30-60 minutes start five hours after the start of work or from the end of the last meal break, or a delayed meal break (DMB) penalty applies until the break is taken. Eg. If lunch ended at 17:00, the next meal break is due at 22:00 or the DMB penalty applies. DMB penalties are an important disincentive against scheduling unsafe working hours that cause fatigue.
When don’t they apply?
If the majority of affected employees agree, a meal break can be taken six hours after the start of work or end of the last meal break. Eg. if a meal break is due at 22:00, it could be pushed back to no later than 23:00 if a majority of affected crew agree. Alternatively, the employer can provide a 20-minute catered and paid rest break between the end of the first meal break and start of the next meal break to avoid paying a DMB penalty between five and six hours. In either case, after six hours the DMB applies.
What is a meal break?
A meal break is an unpaid break of 30-60 mins.
What is the DMB penalty and how is it calculated?
The DMB penalty is an additional single time payment for time worked between when the meal break falls due and when it actually occurs. e.g. 1T becomes 2T, 1.5T become 2.5T, 2T becomes 3T. DMB penalties are calculated to the nearest 15 minutes. Under the MPPA, five minutes and over is rounded to 15 minutes, less than 5 minutes is rounded to 0.
What about supper allowance?
For those who work past midnight, a paid and catered 30-minute supper break applies.
When should meal allowances be paid?
Any time a meal is meant to be provided but isn’t, a meal allowance is payable. In the MPPA, meals have to be provided at breakfast (where you start before 5am or instead of morning tea), on location, during a supper break, or when you’re travelling during meal time. Please note that the advice provided above is general in nature and specific circumstances can affect the application of entitlements.
The MPPA is a collective agreement between the MEAA and Screen Producers Australia (SPA) that covers working conditions on local productions. If you have any questions specific to your production, or you are unsure if the agreement is being followed correctly, get in touch with MEAA Member Central on 1300 656 513 or reach out to your local organiser.