Under the Working Time Regulations, all workers are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes once they have worked for more than 6 hours. Historically, this has always been seen as a “right” which an employee can take, or not take, but an employer would only face a claim if they had refused an actual request for a break.

The recent case of Grange v Abellio London Limited however casts doubt on this. The EAT found that it was necessary to adopt a purposive approach to the Regulations in order to give effect to the Working Time Directive which underpins them. Whilst workers cannot be forced to take breaks, employers should pro-actively ensure that working arrangements allow for workers to take those breaks. If the employer fails to put in place working arrangements that enable this, then they are in danger of being found to have “refused” a worker that right, whether or not any explicit request and refusal has been made.

In this case, the EAT could not actually make a final determination on the issues because there was some further facts to explore, so the matter has gone back to the Employment Tribunal which will make a finding based on the EAT’s guidance. The eventual outcome however could have a significant impact on businesses that do not arrange their working practices in a way that enables an individual to take their 20 minute break as entitled.

Key points:

  • No requirement for a worker to request a break for there to have been a denial of this right.
  • Ensure your working arrangements allow for the appropriate rest breaks.