• Careers
  • Contact Us

What Is the Minimum Period of Compensatory Rest for Workers?

on Friday, 19 January 2018.

Regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations (WTR) entitles workers who work at least six hours to take a rest break of 20 minutes. However, under Regulation 21 WTR this does not apply to a number of 'special cases'...

...including railway transport workers whose "activities are linked to transport timetables and to ensuring the continuity and regularity of traffic".

Instead employers must, wherever possible,  give 'special case' workers an equivalent period of compensatory rest under Regulation 24(a) WTR. But can this be comprised of a series of shorter breaks or must it be one interrupted period of rest? The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has recently provided guidance in this area.

Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd

Mr Crawford was a relief cover signaller who was required to monitor signal boxes continuously over eight hours shifts. Whilst he was able to take short breaks from his workstation, it was not possible to take a continuous 20 minute break. Furthermore, although his short breaks amounted to well in excess of 20 minutes, he remained 'on call' at all times.

Mr Crawford argued that this arrangement did not comply with the WTR and that he was entitled to a 20 minute rest break in accordance with Regulation 12 WTR, or in the alternative, compensatory rest under Regulation 24(a) of the WTR.

The claim was initially rejected by the employment tribunal which held that as a special case worker, Regulation 12 WTR did not apply to Mr Crawford. The employment tribunal also found that Mr Crawford had been permitted to take compensatory rest in accordance with Regulation 24(a) WTR, given that he had a number of short breaks over the course of his shifts.

On appeal, the EAT, following the Court of Appeal decision in Hughes v Corps of Commissionaires Management Ltd, held that the rest breaks afforded to Mr Crawford did not comply with the requirements for compensatory rest under the WTR. The EAT noted that being on call during a break did not automatically mean that it could not constitute compensatory rest. However, in order to comply with the WTR, the break had as far as possible to last for a minimum of 20 minutes.

The EAT rejected the argument presented by Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, that a number of shorter breaks were preferable from a health and safety point of view. It held that in light of the decision in Hughes,  the length of the break itself is essential and could not be overridden by employers, irrespective of what they believed to be the best approach to health and safety.

Best Practice

  • This case highlights the importance of ensuring that workers should receive the correct rest breaks during their shifts.

  • Whilst some workers may not fall within the scope of Regulation 12, and therefore are not entitled to a rest break, they may still be caught by Regulation 24(a) and must therefore be given compensatory rest.

  • Both regulation 12 and regulation 24 rest breaks must be an uninterrupted single period of at least 20 minutes.

  • The fact that an employee is required to be on call during a regulation 24 compensatory rest break will not of itself be in breach of the WTR.

For more information, please contact Eleanor Boyd in our Employment Law team on 020 7665 0940.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.