Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Regular rest breaks are a must

Employers must ensure staff are given the opportunity to take regular rest breaks throughout the working day – even if workers choose not to use them.

John Mehtam leads the employment law team at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said the onus was firmly on employers to make sure staff had chance for a break.

“Under the Working Time Regulations, an employee who works more than six hours is entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of at least 20 minutes. The break can be either paid or unpaid, but must be taken during the working day and not at the beginning or end of it by way of a later start or earlier finish – even if this would be more convenient for the company and/or the employee.”

Mr Mehtam said a tribunal hearing had ruled that employers should provide their staff with a statutory rest break, regardless of whether or not the employee requested one.

“But even though as an employer you must allow for a rest break, it’s up to the employee whether they actually use it or not. And if they choose to work through their break, staff can’t demand extra payment either.”

If the working day exceeds 12 hours, the statutory requirement is still only for one 20-minute rest break.

“There are though additional health and safety considerations that will need to be taken into account for longer shifts like this, and you’ll need to look at each employee’s circumstances when deciding what rest breaks may be appropriate.

“It’s vital that you ensure your company’s working arrangements allow employees to take the rest breaks they are entitled to, otherwise you will be contravening their statutory rights and you could face serious consequences.”

Mr Mehtam said information on working conditions was a key part of the support offered by Martin-Kaye’s Alpha team, which has wide-ranging experience in providing practical and effective advice on human resources and employment law issues.

“We can help employers negotiate the minefield of employment law and deal with situations as they arise in the workplace, helping companies to avoid the more common pitfalls.”