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How Do Multiple Contracts With the Same Employer Impact Rest Period Entitlement?

on Thursday, 01 April 2021.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that where a worker has several employment contracts with the same employer, for the purpose of calculating minimum daily rest periods, those contracts must be taken as a whole, as opposed to separately.

The Law in the UK

The Working Time Directive, implemented into UK law by the Working Time Regulations 1998, provide (subject to some exceptions) the following rights for employees and workers over 18:

  • A daily rest period of not less than 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period during which they work for their employer.
  • A weekly rest period of not less than 24 hours' uninterrupted rest in each seven-day period during which they work for their employer (or two uninterrupted rest periods of not less than 24 hours in each 14-day period; or one uninterrupted rest period of not less than 48 hours in each 14-day period).
  • A rest break of an uninterrupted period of not less than 20 minutes if the worker's working time is more than six hours.

"Working time" is defined as "any period during which the worker is at work, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his or her activity or duties," and the definition of rest period is "any period which is not working time."

Coronavirus guidance employers

The ECJ's Decision - What's Changing?

The ECJ concluded that since 'working time' and 'rest periods' are mutually exclusive, it follows that if one worker has multiple employment contracts with the same employer, these contracts should be considered together when establishing how long the daily 'rest period' is.

Although the ECJ did not clarify whether or not the same principle would apply to a worker who has multiple contracts of employment with different employers, it does seem likely that the same principles would apply.

The ECJ's decision is broadly in line with guidance provided by the UK Government. 

Employers are only obliged to keep records to show compliance with the average weekly working time limit, the night work limits, and the provisions on health and safety assessments for night workers. However, caselaw has shown that employers should set up a system for recording actual daily working time for individual workers.

Employers should therefore be mindful that there is a risk they could be in breach of the Working Time Regulations, if their employees are working under multiple contracts, either for them or a different employer. Employees should therefore be actively encouraged to take their rest periods and to keep their employers up to date with details of work done for other employers.

If you have any further questions on the 'rest periods' please contact Ellen Netto in our Employment Law Team on 07384 812798, or fill in the form below.

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