Rest breaks for workers

It is common that workers work through their rest breaks and do not complain about it. However, you may face legal action if you do not think about working time rules.

The recent case of Grange v Abellio London Limited is a good example of this. In this case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal stated that while the employer cannot force their employees to take rest breaks, they should take active steps to ensure that workers’ working arrangements enable the worker to take rest breaks during their shift. If the employer fails to put working arrangements in place that allows the employee to take breaks, the employee can make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal.

Make sure you are aware of the law on rest breaks and rest periods to avoid grievances and claims.

Rest breaks while at work

Under the Working Time Regulations, workers are entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest break of 20 minutes during any working day that exceeds six hours.

Daily rest period

Workers are entitled to a daily rest period of 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest in a 24 hour period.

Weekly rest period

Workers are entitled to 24 hours of uninterrupted rest every week.

It is up to you to decide whether you wish to organise weekly rest periods so workers take two uninterrupted 24 hour rest periods or one uninterrupted 48 hour rest each fortnight.

Compensatory rest

In some specific circumstances, it may be necessary for a worker to work during a rest period. For example, if the job requires 24 hours’ staffing to ensure that there is no interruption to any services or production.

This compensatory rest should be of the same duration as the time of the break or the part of the break that they could not take.

Exceptions

The rules on rest breaks, daily rest periods and weekly rest periods do not apply to some sectors, for example, air, rail, sea, road and land transport.

Additionally, they will not apply to workers whose working time is not measured (they have no set hours) or can be determined by the worker, for instance, a managing director.

Monotonous work

If a worker undertakes monotonous work (for example, they work on a production line), they should be given adequate breaks to ensure that their health and safety is not put in danger.

Smoking breaks

Workers do not have a specific statutory right to a break for the purposes of smoking. They may use their 20 minutes rest break if they work more than six hours.

You should have a policy which clearly outlines when workers can smoke. For example, you may specify that employees should not spend more than X minutes in a day taking smoking breaks. Alternatively, you may say that smoking is only acceptable during designated break times. Read more here.

Rules for young workers

Different rules apply for young workers – someone over the compulsory school age, but still under the age of 18.

A young worker must have 12 hours of rest between each working day and be given a rest break of 30 minutes when they work for longer than 4 and a half hours.

They are entitled to two consecutive days off per week. This cannot be averaged over a two week period, for instance work six days in one week and four days in the next.

Payment

Whether an employee is paid for their rest breaks will depend on what is stated in their Contract of Employment.

Don’t get caught out! Contact Ellis Whittam to ensure you are acting in a legally compliant way.

Director of Legal Services

James Tamm

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