date: Thursday 7 September 2006
embargo: Immediate release
The TUC today welcomed the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgement on the rest break rights established by the EU working time directive. In today's ruling the ECJ found that the UK Government's guidance on rest breaks was 'clearly liable to render the rights enshrined in the directive meaningless and are incompatible with its objective.'
The Working Time Directive (Working Time Regulations 1998 in the UK) established the right for most workers to a 20 minute rest break if they work more than 6 hours per day (see exemptions in notes)
The problem has been that the UK regulatory guidance says that 'employers must make sure that workers can take their rest, but are not required to make sure that they do take their rest' (link in notes). This has been widely interpreted by employers as meaning that rest breaks can be lawfully denied.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said:
'This judgement stems from a complaint made by the trade union AMICUS to the European Commission and is the latest victory in a long line of trade union legal challenges on working time rules for UK employees. Employers will now have to do their utmost to ensure their staff get the breaks they are entitled to. The Government must now change its guidance on rest breaks to ensure that workers know their rights and can benefit from them, and that employers know their responsibilities and meet them fully.'
In the light of this decision the TUC has today called on the Government to review all its guidance on EU employment law to ensure that UK workers benefit from their rights and that employers are observing the law.
- There are stronger rights for young workers aged 16 and 17 - 30 minutes break if they work longer than 4.5 hours. There are slightly different rights for transport workers ('adequate rest') and some flexibility about when the break might be taken in order to cope with emergencies.
- DTI guidance on rest breaks: http://www.dti.gov.uk/employment/employment-legislation/employment-guidance/page28979.html#rest_breaks