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Rest breaks and the Working Time Regulations

The Employment Appeal Tribunal in the case of Grange v Abellio London Ltd has held that a worker does not need to request a rest break to which he is entitled by statute. An employer has a duty to ensure that working arrangements allow workers to take those breaks.


The Claimant’s working day was 8.5 hours which included a 30-minute unpaid lunch break. However, in reality it was difficult for the Claimant to take the break due to the nature of his role as a bus controller. The employer subsequently changed the length of the working day of the Claimant to 8 hours which he was required to work straight through, without a break, but could finish half an hour earlier.

The Claimant submitted a grievance to complain that he had been forced to work for 8 hours without a break and that this had impacted on his health. The grievance was not upheld and the Claimant submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal claiming that he had been denied rest breaks.

The law

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”), where a worker’s working day is more than 6 hours, he is entitled to a rest break of 20 minutes. A worker can enforce a rest break if it has been “refused” by the employer.


The Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim on the basis that the Claimant had not been refused the rest breaks as he had made no actual request. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) disagreed with this approach and suggested the Tribunal had relied on outdated case law.

The EAT held that although the WTR state that a worker can enforce a rest break when it has been “refused”, this does not require explicit refusal. This was in line with more recent case law which stated that the right to a rest break was not dependent on the worker making a formal request. The EAT went on to state that employers needed to proactively ensure that working arrangements allow workers to take rest breaks and the entitlement to a rest break will be infringed if the employer puts in place working arrangements which fail to allow for a 20-minute break.


Many workers may not take a break if working to meet deadlines or in a high-pressure role with a heavy workload. However, this case highlights that it is the employer’s duty to ensure working arrangements allow for rest breaks and employers should be mindful of workers who may not be taking the breaks that they are entitled to in case they fall foul of their obligations.

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