Law guide: Employment

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Rest

Rest

Contents

Adult workers

An adult worker is entitled to a daily rest period of at least eleven consecutive hours in each 24-hour period during which he or she works for their employer, unless working time is unmeasured or your employee is engaged in one of the special case activities, or your employee is a shift worker who changes shift and cannot take the daily rest period between the end of one shift and the start of another, or your employee's rights are modified or excluded by a collective or workforce agreement.

In the above cases (other than unmeasured, working time), you must allow your employee to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest. In exceptional cases where it is not possible, you must safeguard your employee's health and safety by providing appropriate protection.

Young workers

The Regulations provide for more generous rest entitlement for a young worker. A young worker is over compulsory school age, 16, but below the age of 18.

A young worker will be entitled to a rest period of not less than twelve consecutive hours for each 24-hour period. This may be interrupted in the case of activities involving periods of work that are split over the day or of short duration. There is only one exception in the case of young workers and that is in unusual and unforeseeable circumstances.

Weekly rest periods

In addition to the daily rest period, your employee is entitled, as an adult worker, to an uninterrupted rest period of not less than 24 hours in each seven-day period. Daily rest and weekly rest should be taken consecutively, giving an uninterrupted period of 35 hours.

The seven-day reference period can be averaged over 14 days. In these circumstances, you can choose between two uninterrupted rest periods, each of not less than 24 hours, in each 14-day period and one uninterrupted rest period, of not less than 48 hours, in each 14-day period.

An adult worker's weekly rest entitlement will be subject to the same exceptions as are outlined in relation to the daily rest.

A young worker is entitled to a weekly rest period of not less than 48 hours (which shall be consecutive if possible) in each seven-day period during which he or she works for you. However, this minimum period may be interrupted in the case of activities involving periods of work that are split up over the day or are of short duration.

The rest period can be reduced where this is justified by technical or organisation reasons, but to not less than 36 consecutive hours. The general exceptions do not apply to young workers.

Daily rest break

In addition to daily and weekly rest periods, an adult worker is entitled to a daily rest break where the daily working time is more than six hours. These rest breaks may be included in a collective or workforce agreement.

Should there be no agreement, the break must be an uninterrupted period of not less than 20 minutes. Your employee shall be entitled to spend this break away from his or her workstation, if he or she has one.

Special cases

Where work time is unmeasured or where your employee is engaged in one of the special case activities or where the rights are modified or excluded by a collective or workforce agreement, general rules applicable to rest breaks do not apply.

However, should your employee have been engaged in one of these special case activities, or where the rights are modified or excluded by a collective or workforce agreement, you must allow your employee to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest. In exceptional cases where it is not possible, you must safeguard your employee's health and safety by applying appropriate protection.

A young worker is also entitled to a rest break where the daily working time is more than four and a half hours. They will be entitled to a rest break of at least 30 minutes, consecutive if possible. Where there is more than one employer, the number of hours worked for each employer must be added together for the purposes of establishing whether or not he or she is entitled to a rest break.

Where there are unusual and unforeseeable circumstances, it may constitute an exception to your employee having the usual rest break.

Failure to comply

If you do not allow your employee to exercise his or her rights to a daily/weekly rest period or rest break, or fail to provide them with an equivalent of compensatory rest, the employee may present a complaint to an employment tribunal.

The complaint must be brought within three months of the act or omission complained of, unless the tribunal is of the view that it was not reasonably possible in the circumstances, to bring the complaint within the period. If the tribunal finds against you, it must make a declaration to that effect and may also award compensation.

The tribunal will decide what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances taking into account your default in failing to provide your employee with the relevant rest period. It will also take into account any loss that the employee may have suffered because of your failure.

If your employee refuses to forego a rest entitlement, or has brought proceedings against you to enforce such an entitlement, or your employee has alleged that you have infringed their right, and this is the principal reason for the dismissal, the dismissal will be treated as unfair irrespective of the employee's length of service.