Under Regulation 12(1) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”), if daily working time exceeds six hours then a worker is entitled to a rest break of at least 20 minutes. This rest break, which a worker can use as they please (within reason), should be taken in one uninterrupted period.
This point was illustrated by the recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case of Crawford v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd (UKEAT/0316/16 the EAT). This case was actually more complicated as it involved a railway worker who fell into a special category entitled to 20 minutes “compensatory rest” under Regulation 24 WTR. Compensatory rest is different as it allows a worker to remain on call during their break. This railway worker was a signalman who had to continuously monitor his post and was always on call. He was allowed to take short breaks which when taken together were well in excess of 20 minutes. His employer believed this was actually a better way of working from a health and safety perspective. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed and made it clear that the length of the individual break is crucial.
Whether it is a rest break under Regulation 12 or compensatory rest under Regulation 24 (where you can remain on call), the key is that workers must have an uninterrupted single period of rest of at least 20 minutes.