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Give it a rest!

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Regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) entitles workers to take a rest break of not less than 20 minutes if their daily working time exceeds six hours.

Mr Crawford, a relief cover signalman for Network Rail has brought an employment tribunal claim arguing that his employer is in breach of the WTR as, due to the nature of his role, he is unable to take a continuous 20-minute break during his eight-hour shift.

Regulation 21(f) of the WTR excludes railway transport workers from the protection of Regulation 12. Instead Regulation 24(a) applies. Regulation 24(a) entitles a railway transport worker to an equivalent period of ‘compensatory rest’.

The majority of the signal boxes which Mr Crawford monitored were to be manned by him alone. Practically, he could take a number of 5-minute breaks during his shift amounting to more than 20 minutes in any one shift but due to the requirement that he remained ‘on call’ he was unable to take one continuous break of 20 minutes. Network Rail argued that by aggregating his break, it met the requirements of the WTR. The employment tribunal agreed. Mr Crawford appealed to the employment appeal tribunal (EAT).

Mr Crawford relied on previous case law which set out that a worker should be entitled to a proper uninterrupted break lasting at least 20 minutes away from their workstation where possible, to amount to an equivalent period of compensatory rest. The EAT found that he had no such opportunity and therefore Network Rail were in breach of the WTR.

This case highlights the importance of ensuring proper rest breaks for workers, not least to ensure health and safety standards are met.  Employers should factor in rest breaks when compiling rotas or shifts to ensure they don’t fall foul of WTR.  

Case reference: Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd [2017] UKEAT/0316/16

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.