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THEM’S THE BREAKS AND THAT’S THE LAW

Home / News & Opportunities

Date: 31/01/2017

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, according to the much-loved nursery rhyme. But if Jack isn’t allowed his right to a legitimate work break his employer is breaking the law, Ashley Gurr, employment partner at Redditch law firm Kerwoods, has warned.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, according to the much-loved nursery rhyme.
 
But if Jack isn’t allowed his right to a legitimate work break his employer is breaking the law, Ashley Gurr, employment partner at Redditch law firm Kerwoods, has warned.
 
If an employee’s daily working time is in excess of six hours, they are entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes under the Working Time Regulations 1998. If refused this, they can bring a claim at an employment tribunal.
 
And the recent Grange v Abellio has now closed a loophole on what constitutes refusal.
 
Mr Grange, a bus driver promoted to relief roadside controller, brought the case after the company expressed its expectation that he should work straight through for eight hours.
 
At issue was whether an employee needed to ask for a rest break first before bringing a claim.
 
After all, in reality, many employees don’t bother to take rest breaks.
 
Mr Grange lost at the employment tribunal level but won his case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
 
Mr Gurr said: “It concluded that employers need to proactively ensure that workers are able to take breaks.
 
“There will be a ‘refusal’ if the employer puts in place working arrangements such that the worker is unable to take a 20-minute break. It confirmed that an employer is not required to force employees to take their rest breaks, but they must be given the opportunity to do so.”
 
Mr Gurr said companies needed to review employment contracts to ensure this was the case.
 
“It is important to set out in an employment contract an employee’s right to unpaid rest breaks and encourage employees to take breaks.
 
“If not, they could find themselves liable, especially in circumstances where workers are too busy or too frightened to ask for a break,” he said.