Workers entitled to breaks ‘even if they don’t request them’

Employers who make it difficult for workers to take a rest break may wish to review their practices following a ruling by the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

This applies even if employees don’t actually request to take a break.


The issue arose in the case of the London bus company Abellio and one its employees, Mr Grange, who worked as relief roadside controller.


The job involved monitoring and regulating bus services, making it difficult to take a break. Mr Grange initially worked an eight and a half hour day including an unpaid half hour lunch break.


In July 2012, the company asked if he could work eight hours straight and leave half an hour earlier.


Mr Grange complied but in 2014, he lodged a complaint saying he had been forced to work without a break to the detriment of his health. The company rejected the complaint so he brought a claim before the Employment Tribunal.


The tribunal referred to the Working Time Regulations (WTR), which states that workers are entitled to a 20-minute break if they work more than six hours. It ruled that case law on the subject meant that there had to be a request by the employee for a rest break before there could be a refusal by the employer.


Mr Grange had not made a request and so his claim was dismissed.


The Employment Appeal Tribunal has now overturned that ruling. It held that the WTR was intended to be treated pro-actively by employers. This meant the employer was obliged to recognise a worker’s entitlement to a rest break and avoid creating situations that prevented them taking that break.


There was no need for a worker to request a break for the responsibility to be triggered.


The case was referred back to the Employment Tribunal to determine whether the facts of the case meant that Mr Grange had been denied his entitlement.


In light of the ruling, employers may wish to review their working practices to ensure no employee is placed in a position where they are unable to take a break because of their duties and responsibilities.


For more information about this article or any aspect of our employment services, please call Jeremy Garson on 020 8907 2000 or click here to email him and he will be delighted to help you (there is no charge for an initial telephone discussion).

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