Employers cannot get round working time limits by splitting a worker’s work across two or more contracts. The ECJ has ruled that, where a worker has more than one contract with the same employer, the minimum daily rest period (of at least eleven consecutive hours of rest in any twenty-four hour period) applies to those contracts taken as a whole and not to each contract taken separately. Time which is working time under one contract cannot constitute rest periods under another contract with the same employer.

The ECJ declined to answer whether the same approach should be taken where workers have contracts with multiple employers. Although the health and safety objective would apply equally, the ECJ was also influenced by the need to protect workers from the possibility of pressure from their employer to split their work between contracts to get round rest break protections – which would not be the case where workers have themselves chosen to work for multiple employers.

The ruling was given after 31 December 2020 and is therefore not binding on UK tribunals, but it can and is likely to be taken into account in interpreting the UK Working Time Regulations.

Academia de Studii Economice din Bucureops ti v Organismul Intermediar pentru Programul Operaţional Capital Uman – Ministerul Educaţiei Naţionale (Case C‑585/19)