Where in one day a member working in accordance with variable shift arrangements is on duty for a continuous period of 5 hours or more, time for refreshment shall, as far as the exigencies of duty permit, be allowed as in the following table:
Number of hours Refreshment time
Less than 6 hours 30 minutes6 hours or more, but less than 7 hours 35 minutes
7 hours or more, but less than 8 hours 40 minutes
8 hours or more, but less than 9 hours 45 minutes
9 hours or more, but less than 10 hours 50 minutes
10 hours or more 60 minutes
(Regulation 12 Working Time Regulations)
12.1 This Regulation provides that where an adult worker’s daily working time is more than 6 hours, he/she is entitled to an uninterrupted rest break of not less than 20 minutes, and is entitled to spend it away from his/her work station (if there is one).
Refreshment breaks; when should they be taken and how can a failure on the part of management to allow them be challenged? We are advised that the Working Time Regulations right to a rest break for our members is likely to be 20 minutes. The question has been raised as to when the rest break should be taken. Whereas the Regulations are silent on this, we are advised it is to be anticipated that it should be taken in circumstances where the member works no more than 6 hours without enjoying a rest break. If, therefore, there is a rostered tour of duty of 8 hours, then it will be inappropriate for the WTR rest break of 20 minutes to occur earlier than after 1 hour 40 minutes of the tour (though, of course, members remain entitled, subject to the exigencies of duty, to 45 minutes rest break). If the rest break is, for instance, taken at the beginning of the 8th hour of the tour then the member will have been required to work 7 hours without a rest break and we advise that this is likely to be viewed as contrary to the spirit (if not the letter) of the Working Time Regulations.
The question has been raised as to how this entitlement can be enforced. A member may present a complaint to an Employment Tribunal that the Chief Officer has refused to permit him to exercise any right he has under Regulation 12 (a rest break provision). Such a complaint must be filed within 3 months less one day of 3 the date it is alleged the exercise of the right should have been permitted. This is not a complaint that there is a breach of Regulation 12 but rather a complaint that there has been a refusal on the part of the employer “to permit” the member to exercise that right.
We are therefore advised that where there are concerns that these rights are being breached, members should notify in writing their supervising officer that they wish to insist on their entitlement to a rest break in accordance with the terms of the Working Time Regulations and seek their proposals to ensure that these provisions can be complied with.