The Working Time Regulations (WTR) state that workers are entitled to a rest break if their daily working time is more than six hours. In Grange v Abellio London Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that employers are under a duty to afford workers their entitlement to a rest break; and if they put working arrangements in place which mean workers are prevented from taking it, that amounts to a refusal.
After working as a bus driver for a couple of years, Mr Grange became a Relief Roadside Controller (known as an SQS) in 2011, which involved monitoring the arrival and departure times of bus services and regulating them to adjust to traffic conditions.
As a driver, his rest breaks were scheduled at fixed times each day but that was not the case in his new job. His new working day initially lasted eight and a half hours, with the half hour being unpaid and treated as a lunch break by the company although in reality it was very difficult to take the break because of the responsive nature of the job. In July 2012, the company emailed Mr Grange concerning a change to the working hours for SQSs and expressed an expectation that although they were to work for eight hours without a break, they could leave half an hour earlier.
In July 2014, Mr Grange lodged a grievance complaining that he had been forced to work without a meal break for two and a half years, which had adversely affected his health. The grievance was heard on 30 September 2014 and Mr Grange lodged a tribunal claim on the ground that he had been refused a rest break.
Regulation 30 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 provides that a worker may present a claim to an employment tribunal where the employer has refused to permit the worker to exercise any right to a rest break. Although the tribunal accepted that a request for daily rest breaks was implicit in Mr Grange’s grievance, it held there was nothing to suggest that the employer had refused the request.
On that basis, the tribunal held that prior to July 2012, Mr Grange’s working arrangements had allowed for a half hour break and even though it was difficult to take the break, the company had not “refused” to allow him to take it. Relying on the decision in the case of Miles v Linkage Community Trust Ltd, the tribunal dismissed his claim.
Mr Grange appealed the decision.
Noting that there were conflicting EAT decisions on the approach to the right to rest breaks under the WTR, the EAT held that the decision of the EAT in Scottish Ambulance Service v Truslove was preferable to that of Miles.
This decision made clear that employers are under a duty to afford workers their entitlement to take a rest break. Where working arrangements are put into place which do not allow workers to do so, that amounts to a refusal by the employer. Conversely, if the employer takes active steps to ensure working arrangements that enable workers to take their rest breaks, they will have met their obligation under the WTR as workers cannot be forced to take the rest breaks, they can only be “enabled” to take them.
The EAT therefore remitted the matter to the tribunal for consideration.
The case is a welcome clarification of the right of workers to take rest breaks. In particular, while workers cannot be forced to take their rest breaks, employers must ensure that working arrangements allow them to do so. Where workers are under pressure not to take rest breaks because of working arrangements they will not be prevented from bringing a claim just because they have not requested one.