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Working Time & Compensatory Rest

12 September 2011 #Health & Safety

Hughes v The Corps of Commissionaires Management Ltd (2011)

Under the Working Time Regulations (WTR) a worker is entitled to a daily rest break if their daily working time exceeds six hours. A rest break is a period of at least 20 minutes which the worker is entitled to spend away from their workstation, if they have one.

However, workers engaged in "security and surveillance activities requiring a permanent presence" are excluded from this provision. Instead of a rest break, they are entitled to take an “equivalent period of compensatory rest”.  In exceptional circumstances, where compensatory rest is not possible the employer must “afford him such protection as may be appropriate...to safeguard the worker's health and safety."

Mr Hughes worked a security guard on 12 hour shifts.  When he took a break, he could be interrupted at any time.  If this happened, he would be entitled to start the break again.  However, Mr Hughes claimed that this breached the WTR as any period of compensatory rest had to be a "rest period" and therefore had to be taken outside working time. Since he had to remain in the workplace and was on call, the breaks he took were taken within working time and could not amount to compensatory rest. The Court of Appeal disagreed. 

The Court of Appeal held that a period of “compensatory rest” under the WTR does not have to have the same characteristics as a “rest break”.  Compensatory rest must simply involve a break from work and, so far as possible, last for 20 minutes.

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