In Grange -v- Abellio London Ltd 2016, the EAT has held that a claim for refusal to permit rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations could be brought even though the employee had not specifically requested the break. Employers must take active steps to enable workers to take the requisite breaks.
Mr Grange worked for Abellio in a role which involved regulating bus services. His working day was reduced from 8 and a half hours, to 8 hours. It was intended that he would work without a break and finish half an hour earlier. After two years, Mr Grange submitted a grievance complaining that he had been forced to work without a break. He subsequently brought a claim in the employment tribunal under the Working Time Regulations (which entitles workers to a 20 minute break when they are working for six hours or more). The Tribunal held that his claim failed, as he had never expressly requested to take a break and been directly refused by his employer.
The EAT disagreed with this analysis. Although there was conflicting case law on the point, the EAT concluded that the proper interpretation is that employers are required to actively respect the entitlement to rest breaks - consequently, the employer will be ‘refusing’ a rest break if it puts in place working arrangements which mean that the employee cannot take a rest break.
The question of whether Mr Grange had therefore been denied his rest break, either before his shift pattern was changed and he was simply too busy to take a break, or afterwards when he was expected to work 8 hours but leave 30 minutes early, was remitted to the Tribunal.