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Rest breaks at work – what are the rules?

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In light of recent reports that a claim has been brought by Irish workers against Paddy Power Betfair concerning rest breaks, we take a look at the position in the UK under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The Regulations entitle most workers to the following:

  • a daily rest period of 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest per day;
  • a weekly rest period of 24 hours’ uninterrupted rest per week (or, at the employer’s choice, 48 hours’ per fortnight); and
  • when a day’s working time is more than six hours, a rest break of 20 minutes.

It is important to remember that there are exceptions to the above, including (but not limited to):

  1. workers who carry out monotonous work (e.g. on a production line) where this can put the worker’s health and safety at risk (who are entitled to, potentially additional, “adequate” rest breaks);
  2. young workers (those aged between 16 and 18, who are entitled to additional rest periods);
  3. workers who work split shifts (who are not entitled to the daily or weekly breaks detailed above); and
  4. those in particular groups who have been excluded due to the nature of their profession (such as mobile aviation workers and sea fishermen).

Employers are not required to force workers to take these rest breaks, but they must ensure that workers can take them. Employees who are not receiving the breaks that they are entitled to can bring complaints to the Employment Tribunal. An award of compensation which is “just and equitable in the circumstances” may be made if they are successful.

It is particularly important for employers who engage workers in unusual shift patterns to be aware of these regulations. If you have any questions about how your organisation should approach the implementation of rest breaks and periods, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team.