Employees working more than six hours are entitled to a minimum 20 minute break. A new case puts the onus for ensuring breaks are taken firmly on employers…

How proactive do employers have to be about implementing rest breaks? Employers now have a clear view on this question following the legal decision of Grange -v- Abellio London Limited

Employees are entitled – among other rights to rest – to a minimum 20 minute break from work where their daily working time is more than six hours. Where they have a workstation, their break should be taken away from it.

Following Grange it’s clear that the emphasis is on the employer to make arrangements allowing for these rest-breaks. Whilst workers can’t be forced to take breaks, they have to be “positively enabled” to do so. This has to be reflected clearly in the working shifts or arrangements put in place.

The employer in this case, Abellio, argued that their employee, Mr Grange, had never been actively “refused” a request to take a break. Although his working duties – regulating bus traffic –  didn’t clearly incorporate a rest break during the working day, Mr Grange couldn’t identify a relevant occasion when he had “requested” a break and been refused. The legislation and case law, so Abellio argued, suggested the onus was on the employee.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Employment Appeals Tribunal rejected the idea that the claim revolved around who had or hadn’t actively complained of their working arrangements in the past. Offering “real world” protection meant placing the emphasis on the employer, scrutinising the arrangements it operates and whether they prevent rest breaks in practice.

The outcome is a helpful reminder that the obligation is on employers to be proactive about breaks and to structure working arrangements accordingly.

Of course, in some industries, such breaks are genuinely out of step with workplace needs. One useful tool in these situations is the ability to vary breaks. This can be done using appropriate “workforce agreements” or in collective agreements with unions.

For further information, please contact: Clive Day, Senior Associate, DD: 0115 983 8246, Clive.Day@gateleyplc.com


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This blog is intended only as a synopsis of certain recent developments. If any matter referred to in this blog is sought to be relied upon, further advice should be obtained.