Worker denied rest breaks wins personal injury award
Employment Tribunals can now award personal injury damages to workers refused permission to take statutory rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998.
In the ground-breaking case of Grange v Abellio London Ltd, the Employment Appeal Tribunal approved an award of £750 to a worker who said he suffered physical discomfort after being refused rest breaks.
Mr Grange, who was a driver, had a pre-existing bowel condition that meant he had to eat at certain intervals. His employer insisted he work through his eight hour shift without normal breaks. He was denied rest breaks on 14 days. This, he said, had caused him discomfort and distress that was more than a minor inconvenience.
The Tribunal used its discretion to compensate him for the effect that not having rest breaks had had on his physical condition, i.e. for his personal injury.
Although the employer might still appeal this decision, the current implications of his case are wide-ranging:
- An Employment Tribunal may award damages where a worker has been denied a rest break and can prove they have suffered more than a minor inconvenience as a result;
- In low value claims, medical evidence may not be needed. Tribunals can exercise a 'common sense' approach when assessing loss.
The case underlines how important it is for an employer to provide for rest breaks and ensure that working arrangements don't in effect stop those rest breaks being taken.
It also makes it clear that an employee should not have to ask to take a rest break. Employers have a positive duty to afford their workers rest breaks. A failure to do so is likely to amount to a refusal to allow rest breaks.
What is the law on rest breaks?
Workers have the right to a minimum unpaid rest break of 20 minutes per day during any shift that exceeds six hours.
Where this right is breached, and a successful complaint made, a Tribunal must make a declaration and may make an award of compensation.