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Rest periods during working hours

View profile for Laura Hill
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Regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) requires employers to give employees a rest break of not less than 20 minutes if a worker’s daily working time is more than six hours.

It is important to ensure, therefore, that your business complies with that requirement. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held recently that an employer is not entitled to meet the 20 minute rest break requirement by aggregating breaks of a shorter duration.

It was held in Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd that allowing an employee to take short five-minute breaks from his work station which would amount to 20 minutes (or even over 20 minutes) over the shift as a whole is not compliant.

The EAT rejected Network Rail’s argument that their system of lots of smaller breaks worked better from a health and safety perspective than a system involving a continuous 20 minute break, adding that it is not open to employers to decide to not comply with the WTR, based on their views as to what health and safety requires.

It was held (following Hughes v The Corps of Commissionaires Management Ltd) that there should be a proper, uninterrupted break from work during a rest period which should last for at least 20 minutes.

It was pointed out in Crawford that in a number of “special cases”, under regulation 21 of the WTR (such as activities linked to agriculture), it is also important that in each period of rest the employee should be “free from work” and should not remain on call for that period of rest.