Employment Law Update – Right to rest breaks
16 December 2016
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has considered whether an employee was denied his right to a rest break under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), without him making any express request to take a rest break.
Grange v Abellio London Ltd, EAT
Mr Grange was initially employed by Abellio to work an 8.5 hour day, half an hour of which was unpaid and treated as a rest break even though it was often difficult for him to take a break due to the nature of his role. From mid-July 2012, the hours of those working in Mr Grange’s role were reduced to eight hours, meaning that they could finish half an hour early but without taking a rest break.
In July 2014, Mr Grange brought a grievance on the grounds that he had been forced to work without a meal break for two and a half years. His grievance was rejected. His claim to an employment tribunal was dismissed on the grounds that he had not been denied his right to take a meal break since he had made no actual request to take a break. He appealed to the EAT.
The EAT allowed the appeal, finding that the tribunal had relied on incorrect EAT authorities in reaching its decision. The case was remitted to be reheard.
Enforcement of the right to take a rest break under the WTR does not require an explicit request or refusal on the part of the worker or employer. While workers cannot be forced to take rest breaks, employers need to proactively ensure that working arrangements allow for workers to take those breaks. The effect of putting in place working arrangements that prevented Mr Grange from taking a rest break was that Abellio had ‘refused’ his right to take a rest break.
Under the WTR, if an individual has a working day of more than six hours, the minimum rest break in that period is 20 minutes (although of course their contract may provide an entitlement to a longer rest break).
This case establishes a clear precedent for employers to take appropriate steps to ensure that workers have the opportunity to take a rest break, even if they choose not to do so.
The content of this article is for general information only. For further information regarding Working Time Regulations please contact a member of Birketts’ Employment Team. Law covered as at December 2016.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2016.