All security guards are entitled to rest breaks and the security industry is not exempt from Working Time Regulations, a Newcastle employment tribunal has ruled in the first case of its kind which was brought on behalf of Gavin Ruddick by his trade union, the GMB Britain's General Union and their lawyers at Thompsons Solicitors.

The tribunal said that although the security industry is not subject to the law that requires workers have a 20 minute rest break every six hours, it must do "the next best thing", such as allow a number of shorter rest periods or one longer period. It stated that if any company were to be as ridiculous as to prevent a security guard from going to the toilet, then it might be in breach of the Human Rights Act for that would be degrading and inhuman treatment.

It also concluded that the company impaired Gavin Ruddick's convenience and quality of life has been severely impaired and that he had been moved in an attempt to "shut him up".

GMB member Gavin Ruddick complained to his managers in September 2001 that there was no official policy in place to allow him rest breaks to go to the toilet. He was left in no doubt that if an incident occurred in which property was damaged while he was away from his post that he would be blamed for the loss.

As well as claiming a breach of the Working Time Regulations, Gavin Ruddick alleged that he was victimised after launching his tribunal claim. He was moved from his City centre office to working in a car park portacabin, for which he received less pay.

Gavin Ruddick's five day employment tribunal hearing has been successful on all counts. He awaits one final hearing to determine his compensation.

Andrew Lightburn, Mr Ruddick's solicitor at Thompsons, the GMB's law firm, said: "This is a very important decision for the security industry which believed it was exempt from the Working Time Regulations with respect to rest breaks. This decision clarifies the law on this matter, giving all security guards on contracts requiring a permanent presence the right to some form of rest break. This is a great result for Mr Ruddick and for security guards nationally. Mr Ruddick has had the full backing of his union, the GMB throughout and I believe it will be a significant result for all their members in the security industry."

Joan Hoggins of the GMB, Britain's General Union said "This is a great result for our members and this will now send a clear message that the security industry does not fall outside the Working Time Directive and they must treat their workers fairly or pay the price. I could not believe that when Gavin approached me, informing me that he was to do a 12 hour shift, he was denied the right of any form of rest breaks. This is a great success, not just for the region but for the whole country."

Gavin Ruddick said: "This is a fantastic decision for security workers. It is important that workers understand that it is their legal right to rest at work and not a favour bestowed on them by their employer. Throughout my complaint and the hearing, Reliance blamed their customer, Zurich Financial Services for not providing rest breaks, all workers must understand that the legal obligation is on their employer. I hope that Reliance is persuaded to take the appropriate disciplinary action against the guilty parties in order to show that it does not condone their managers acts of victimisation. No worker should be subject to the humiliation which I suffered."

"I have only survived thanks to the fantastic support given to me by many other Reliance guards and the support and assurances from Joan Hoggins of the GMB union. I must also speak of my immense respect for my Counsel Colin Bourne and my solicitor Andrew Lightburn from Thompsons for their superb legal challenge. Finally I would implore all security guards to protect themselves and their legal rights and join a union. The GMB have put substantial financial support in place to protect me and their support has been magnificent".