The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Grange v Abellio went back to the principles underlying the European Working Time Directive to give a broad interpretation of the UK’s Working Time Regulations (WTR). The WTR give workers the right to a daily rest break of 20 minutes where the worker is working for more than six hours and also provide that a complaint may be made to the employment tribunal (ET) where an employer has refused to permit the worker to take that rest.

Mr Grange, whose work was such that it was often difficult to fit a break into his eight and a half hour shift, complied with a request to change his working pattern so he worked eight hours without a break but left 30 minutes earlier. His subsequent complaint to the ET failed on the basis that he was found not to have made a "request" to take a break and that, therefore, there can have been no refusal of a request.

The EAT found in Mr Grange’s favour, saying that the employer has an obligation to “afford the worker the entitlement” to take a rest break. That entitlement will be “refused” by the employer if it puts into place working arrangements that fail to allow the taking of breaks. There is no need for the employee first to have expressly made a request that is then rejected.