How employers can say no, without saying a word

sayingno

As the countdown to the festive season gets underway, employers juggling the pre-Christmas workload need to ensure workers are enabled to take their rest breaks.

The warning comes after an employer was found to have failed to take the necessary steps to facilitate rest breaks – despite the employee not having made any specific request.

The case was brought by an employee who was running a roadside traffic management system. He argued that he had been denied his legal entitlement to rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The job with Abellio London Ltd involved regulating bus services to match road traffic conditions. Mr Grange, the employee, had a working day of 8.5 hours, including a half-hour lunch break. When it proved difficult for him to take a break, because of the nature of the job, his employer changed his working day to 8 hours. The idea was that he would work without a break, but finish half an hour earlier.

All workers are entitled to a 20-minute rest break after six hours of working under the Working Time Regulations, and if the entitlement is breached then an employee can make a claim if the employer ‘has refused to permit him’ to exercise the right. The key question, which took Mr Grange’s case to appeal, was whether an employee could make such a claim when he had not actively requested the break, and so had not received a direct refusal from the employer.

Although the Employment Tribunal first held that there had to be an actual refusal of a request, the Appeal Tribunal held that workers should be positively enabled to take breaks by the employer.
In making the decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal highlighted that minimum rest periods are essential for the protection of health and safety and said there should be no distinction between entitlements and obligations.

Said Jane Crosby, Employment expert at Hart Brown Solicitors: “The important thing to take away from this is that employers should not wait for rest breaks to be requested, instead they must be proactive in making sure that working arrangements enable workers to take those breaks. Otherwise, where the arrangement of the working day makes it difficult or prevents workers from taking a break, this may be taken as a denial of a right.”

She added: “It’s important to have a clear policy, and to make sure that everyone in the company knows and understands how to take their break. This is particularly relevant to employers in sectors where employees often work long shifts and it is difficult to stop and take a break, such as social care, where continuity of care is vital. But it is equally important that all employers take it into account at busy periods, such as the run up to the Christmas holiday, and make sure that workers can take the required rest breaks, even if they choose not to.”

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Jane Crosby

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience. Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the...

Partner, Dispute Resolution

Jane Crosby

Jane is an employment and commercial litigation solicitor of more than 15 years' experience.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.

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Hart Brown Solicitors is the trading name of Hart Brown LLP registered in England and Wales No. OC 425835 whose registered office is Resolution House, Riverview, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GU1 4UX and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) No. 658593. Members: N Maud, T Pearce, D Knapp, R Campbell and P Grimwood, Partners: J Crosby, L Harrhy, J Jupp, J Lamont, T Mandelli, V McMurtrie, E Moore, S Osborne, S Powell, G Sanders and E Wiggins.

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