Yesterday the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) handed down it’s judgment in the case of Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd.

Mr Crawford was a railway signalman working on single manned boxes on eight hour shifts. He had no rostered rest breaks but was instead expected to take breaks when there were naturally occurring breaks in the work while remaining ‘on call’. Although none of the indvidudual breaks lasted 20 mintues, in total over his shift Mr Crawford took substantially more than 20 minutes break.

Mr Crawford claimed that he was entitled to a 20 minute ‘rest break’ under regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 or a ‘compensatory rest’ under regulation 24(a). The Employment Tribunal did not agree.

Under regulation 12 of the regulations a worker is entitled to a 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.

Workers falling within a number of ‘special cases’ under regulation 21, including those working in rail transport whose activities are ‘linked to transport timetables and to ensuring the continuity and regularity of traffic’ are excluded from the entitlement to a rest break.

Regulation 24(a) provides that wherever possible employers should allow workers to take an equivalent period of compensatory rest. If in exceptional cases, this is not possible, employers must afford such proctection as may be appropriate to safeguard the worker’s health and safety.

Mr Crawford appealed on the basis that ‘an equivalent period of compensatory rest’ must comprise one period lasting at least 20 minutes. The appeal succeeded.

The EAT allowed Mr Crawford’s appeal, holding that an equivalent period of compensatory rest must have the characteristics of a rest in the sense of a break from work, and must so far as possible ensure that the period free from work is at least 20 minutes.

Although the mere fact of being on call during a break does not mean that regulation 24(a) is not satisfied, the EAT considered that it was essential that the break should be 20 minutes long and rejected the argument that the 20 minute break can be an amalgamation of numerous shorter breaks.

If you need advice on rest breaks or any employment-related matters, please contact Laura Franklin or Jessica Hancock on 01782 205000 or laura.franklin@beswicks.com or jessica.hancock@beswicks.com