If a worker’s daily working time is in excess of six hours, they are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes under the Working Time Regulations 1998. If a worker is refused this right, they can bring a claim in the employment tribunal.
In the recent case of Grange v Abellio London Limited (Abellio), the EAT considered whether or not an employee had been denied his right to a rest break under the Working Time Regulations 1998, where such a break had not been specifically requested.
Mr Grange was employed as a ‘Relief Roadside Controller’ by Abellio London Limited and his job required him to regulate and monitor bus services. He initially worked eight and a half hours per day, with a half hour unpaid rest break, which he found difficult to take. In July 2012, Abellio changed Mr Grange’s hours so he was required to work eight hours per day, but finished half an hour earlier. This change was made via an announcement at a staff meeting (which was not attended by Mr Grange), but this did not constitute a workforce agreement to exclude or modify the rest break.
In July 2014, Mr Grange raised a grievance in relation to a failure to provide breaks. His grievance was not upheld. Mr Grange brought a claim in the employment tribunal, claiming that he had been denied his entitlement to a rest break under the Working Time Regulations 1998. An employment tribunal dismissed his claim, finding that he had not been denied his right since no actual request had been made and refused.
Mr Grange appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The EAT found that an employer has a duty to provide a worker with a rest break, regardless of whether it has been requested. The EAT said that entitlement to a rest break will be refused if the employer puts in place working arrangements that fail to allow the taking of 20 minute rest breaks. The EAT remitted the case back to an employment tribunal to determine whether rest breaks had been denied during the different arrangements throughout Mr Grange’s employment with the benefit of the EAT’s guidance.
Whilst employers cannot force employees to take rest breaks, they should be proactive and encourage employees to take breaks. In reality, many employees do not take rest breaks and may consider that it is their own choice not to take breaks, however this would be no defence for an employer. It is important to set out in an employment contract an employee’s right to unpaid rest breaks and encourage employees to take breaks.
This alert does not provide a full statement of the law and readers are advised to take legal advice before taking any action based on the information set out above. If you would like specific advice in relation to rest breaks or the Working Time Regulations 1998 or if you have any other employment or HR related issues please contact Joanne Holborn, Tom Scaife or Caroline Rayner on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.