May 8, 2019
In the recent case of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Crawford  the Court of Appeal had to determine whether a worker was entitled to compensatory rest under the Working Times Regulations (‘WTR’) instead of a 20-minute uninterrupted rest break.
Mr Crawford was a railway signal controller. He was required to man boxes on an eight hour shift alone. He was expected to take breaks when there were naturally occurring breaks in work but remain ‘on call’. None of the breaks lasted for 20 minutes but added together they lasted substantially more. He pursued a claim in the employment tribunal arguing that his employer had refused to allow him rest breaks. National Rail disagreed and explained that he was excluded from the right to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes but was provided with breaks in excess of 20 minutes.
The WTR provide that all workers who work over 6 hours a day are entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes. There are exceptions to this however, including where it is not possible to grant such a period of rest provided the employer affords the employee an equivalent period of compensatory rest.
In this case the Court of Appeal held that the compensatory rest period provided to Mr Crawford was equivalent to a 20-minute rest break due to the smaller breaks amounting to more than 20 minutes and therefore there was no breach of the WTR.
What to take from this case
The exceptions to the requirement to provide a 20-minute uninterrupted rest break are very limited and will only apply in specific circumstances. Employers should look to ensure that all employees who are working over 6 hours a day get an uninterrupted break of at least 20 minutes. If there are reasons that this cannot be provided then employers will need to be able to justify this – something that is likely to be very difficult to do.
If you are an employee working more than 6 hours a day and you are not being permitted to take an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes, you may have a claim under the WTR.