The Employment Relations (Rest and Meal Breaks) Amendment Bill has received its first reading in Parliament.
Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson says legislation passed in 2008 had created a host of problems for businesses and workers due to it being overly prescriptive.
"Unfortunately, the practical implications of the current law simply do not match up with its intentions.
"I have received numerous complaints from workers including teachers, supermarket night-fill staff and healthcare professionals who have been adversely affected since the 2008 law came into force last year.
"The Bill introduced today will address their concerns as it maintains all employees' right to reasonable breaks but offers greater flexibility around when they can be taken.
"It will provide a requirement for employers to either allow for rest and meal breaks that give employees a reasonable opportunity for refreshment, or make compensatory provision.
"Compensation could be made through employees negotiating later start or earlier finishing times or accumulated time in lieu - arrangements that can't occur right now.
"These amendments encourage employers and employees to negotiate terms that best suit their workplace and are more in line with the flexible arrangements that work so well across the country."
The Bill has been referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee for consideration.