The case of Grange v Abellio London Limited has provided some clarification on the type of damages that may be recovered by an employee who is being denied his or her entitlement to rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). Workers should, under that legislation, have an unpaid rest break of 20 minutes when working for more than six hours per day.

Mr Grange’s working pattern at Abellio meant that he was sometimes not able to take his daily rest break. He therefore brought employment tribunal proceedings.

Having found that Abellio had failed to allow Mr Grange to take his rest breaks, the employment tribunal had to decide what compensation he should be awarded. Compensation for any breach of the WTR should be such as the tribunal considers ‘just and equitable’, taking into account in particular any loss sustained by the worker. It is clear that this would include financial loss, but Mr Grange had not experienced any financial loss. However, having heard Mr Grange’s evidence, the tribunal found that the lack of rest breaks had had an adverse impact on his health, and awarded him damages as a result. The Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with this approach on appeal.

Employers should be aware that, where an employee has suffered any impact on his or her health as a result of a failure to allow rest breaks – or indeed any other breach of the WTR - employers could be liable for damages. In Mr Grange’s case, the compensation awarded was relatively modest. However, it is possible that, in cases where significant injury has been caused, the damages could be much more significant. Employers should therefore ensure that work is organised so that employees can enjoy the daily and weekly rest breaks to which they are entitled, as well as taking their annual leave.