Under the Working Time Regulations workers have the right to rest breaks. These are during the working day as well as daily and weekly rest periods. The Employment Appeal Tribunal has held that the right can be infringed even where there has been no specific request for a break which has been refused.
In the recent case of Grange v Abellio London Ltd, the EAT held that an employer has a duty to allow the worker the right to a rest regardless of whether or not the worker requests one. The way the working day is arranged can in itself deny the worker the right to take a break. In this case the Claimant was contracted to work 8.5 hour shifts with half an hour break of lunch. He was however told if he worked for 8 hours without the break he could leave early. The EAT said that the instruction to work without the rest break and leave early could be said to be a refusal even though the Claimant had not expressly requested the lunch break.
This case is perhaps an important lesson for employers to be mindful of other laws and the need for breaks when trying to cut short breaks to accommodate flexibility, peak demand etc.