The European Working Time Directive (“the Directive”) provides for certain rules on working time and rest breaks. One of those rules is the entitlement to 24 hours rest away from work in any 7 day period. The European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) has recently provided some clarification on how this rule works in the case of Marques da Rosa v Varzim Sol – Turismo, Jogo e Animacao SA.
Da Rosa worked in a Portuguese Casino. The working rules provided for two days off per week. However on occasion the rota required workers to work for 7 days on the spin. When his employment ended, he argued that this was unlawful and in breach of the Directive. The issue to be determined was whether the worker had an automatic right to a day off work after working 6 consecutive days, or whether the employer was free to choose when the day off would be (i.e. at any time during the 7 day period).
The ECJ found in favour of the employer. To comply with the Directive, all that needs to be done is to provide one day off work per 7 day period. This means that a worker could have a day off at the start of one seven day period, then work 12 consecutive days (taking him or her into a second 7 day period), with a further day off at the end of the second 7 day period.
And in the UK?
In the UK, the Working Time Regulations 1998 provide for certain minimum rest periods for workers. These Regulations implement the Directive. The UK rights include:-
- Rest breaks at work – 20 minutes rest break for any working time of 6 hours or more (note that the break cannot be at the start or end of a shift);
- Daily rest – 11 consecutive hours of rest in any 24 hour period during which work is performed; and
- Weekly rest –24 consecutive hours of rest per week, though this can be averaged over 2 weeks.
- Also watch out for additional rights for night workers and young workers.
Weekly rest in the UK can either be achieved by allowing 24 hours of rest per week, or 48 hours of rest per fortnight, or two separate periods of 24 hours over a 14 day period.
For those lucky enough to enjoy weekends off work, this case will be of no relevance.
However, for those working business which operate around the clock, it is worth noting the decision. This provides a degree of flexibility for employers when arranging rotas etc.
If you have any questions about rest breaks and working time, get in touch with our Employment Team.
Jack Boyle, Employment