Personal injury damages for failing to provide a 20-minute break
Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), workers are entitled to an unpaid 20-minute rest break after working six hours. During this 20-minute break, workers must not be required to perform any duties.
We look at the recent case of Grange v Abellio London Ltd, where the EAT held that
(1) An employer acts unlawfully by even not accommodating (as opposed to refusing) the 20-minute rest break ; and
(2) ET’s can permitted to award personal injury compensation for this.
Mr Grange worked as a relief roadside controller. This role involved monitoring and regulating the bus services. He was to work 8 hours 30 minutes per day, with a 30-minute uninterrupted lunch break. However, because of the responsive nature of the position, he found it difficult to fit in his break. Therefore Abellio changed Mr Grange’s hours to a continuous 8 hours (without the 30-minute break). He filed a grievance, complaining that over the previous two and a half years, he had been made to work without a break, which adversely affected his health. Abellio rejected this grievance.
Mr Grange lodged a claim at the ET, alleging a breach of the WTR. The ET rejected the claim, concluding that ‘there had never been a refusal of a rest break’ by Abellio.
Mr Grange appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).
The EAT allowed Mr Grange’s appeal in that they rejected the ET’s rationale that there had to be a explicit ‘refusal’ to win a claim. The EAT confirmed that ‘simply the denial of a right through the arrangement of the working day’, even if the worker didn’t request one could constitute a refusal and therefore a breach of the rest break requirements in the WTR.
The EAT also said that the ET can award personal injury damages for a failure in providing rest breaks under the WTR. The EAT’s rationale was that because the WTR is designed to protect the health and safety of a worker, naturally ET’s should be able to award personal injury damages for these breaches.
This case serves as a stark reminder for employers to ensure that arrangements are in place for workers to have an uninterrupted break of 20 minutes if they are working for more than six hours on a given day. Failure to do this may prove costly, especially now this case confirmed damages for personal injury can be awarded.
Case report: Grange v Abellio London Ltd.
By Zahid Reza
Image used under CC courtesy of Bark