Legal Article - Employment Law

Employee Rest Periods

Minimum Daily Rest Periods

Adult workers are entitled to a rest period of 11 consecutive hours between each working day. Young persons are entitled to an uninterrupted period of 12 hours’ rest in each 24-hour period during which they work. This does not apply if periods of work are split up over the day or are of short duration.

Weekly Rest Periods

Adult workers are entitled to an uninterrupted rest period of no less than 24 hours in each 7 day period. This may be averaged over a two week period.
The employer has two options to choose from:
• two uninterrupted rest periods each of not less than 24 hours in each 14 day period, or

• One uninterrupted rest period of not less than 48 hours in each 14 day period.

Young persons are entitled to two days’ rest in each week. This cannot be averaged over a two-week period. A young person’s weekly rest period may be reduced to 36 hours, where justified by technical or organisation reasons. Such reasons would be inherent in the nature of the work or its desired purpose.

Daily and weekly rest periods are separate entitlements, which should be taken consecutively. Weekly rest is also to be additional to any paid annual leave to which a worker may be entitled under these Regulations.

Shift Workers Rights

When a shift worker changes shift, it may not be possible for them to take their full rest entitlement before starting the new pattern of work. In such a case, the entitlement to daily and weekly rest does not apply. The entitlements also do not apply where a worker’s work is split up over the day and so precludes taking 11 hours’ continuous rest e.g. cleaning staff that has a morning and evening shift.

Workers on unmeasured working time, certain other workers in special circumstances and shift workers are exempted from this limit and collective and workforce agreements can modify or exclude the limit.

The latter could agree a longer reference period. Where special circumstances or agreements apply compensatory rest or other appropriate protection must be provided. These do not apply to young persons under 18 years of age, but their entitlement to a rest break may be modified or excluded.
• in the case of an occurrence due to unusual or unforeseeable circumstances, beyond the employer’s control, or to exceptional events, the consequences of which could not have been avoided despite the exercise of all due care by the employer;

• when the young person’s employer requires them to undertake work which is of a temporary

• nature and must be performed immediately; and

• No adult worker is available to do the work in place of the young person.

All the relevant conditions have to apply. Any young person carrying out work in these circumstances must be allowed equivalent compensatory rest time within the following three weeks.

Working Time Regulations Enforcement: Rest Periods

The entitlement to a rest period can be enforced by workers bringing a complaint to an Employment Tribunal (used to be called Industrial Tribunals). The choice of whether to seek legal redress is entirely the worker’s and they may wish not to bother. In any event a worker should try to settle a dispute through the company’s grievance procedure before going to a Tribunal.
The Tribunal can make an award of compensation to the worker and in doing so; will look at both the employers’ default in refusing to permit the exercise of the worker’s entitlement, and any loss sustained by the worker as a consequence of that default.

Published: 03 Jun 2011


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