A case at an Appeal Tribunal has looked at rest breaks, specifically the need for 20 minutes break if a worker works 6 hours or more. The case is Grange v Abellio London and concerned a bus controller.
The employee used to work an 8.5 hour day, with a half hour for lunch. It was admitted that he often found it hard to take that break. However, in 2012 the employer instructed the employee to work straight through for 8 hours and just leave half an hour early.
The employee said this amounted to a refusal to allow him breaks, and the employer said that it couldn’t have been a refusal, as the employee never actually asked to take a break.
The penalty for not allowing an employee to take their breaks is a financial award of whatever sum the Tribunal feels is just.
The original Tribunal agreed with the employer and said that there cannot be a refusal where there is no request. However, the Appeal Tribunal disagreed and said that the refusal was implicit in an order to work through.
In this case, the employee had not objected for two years and this is the important point for employers to note. Just because an employee does not complain, it doesn’t stop them from saying later that they felt unable to do so, or that they were happy to try, but the lack of breaks made them ill. This can lead to claims for compensation or even constructive unfair dismissal claims.
The Appeal Tribunal reiterated that it is impossible to make someone have a rest, but it is vital for employers to ensure that employees are able to take their breaks if they want to. An order to work through and leave early, is the same as a refusal of rest breaks.
The case can be read in full at: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/2016/0130_16_1611.html