Hospitality staff are now only legally entitled to one 20-minute break if they work over six hours, regardless of how much longer they work after that.
The decision taken at an Employment Appeal Tribunal yesterday means that employees could legally work up to 12 hours with just a 20 minute break, although law firm Wedlake Bell advises employers not to take advantage of the ruling.
Julian Yew, Head of the Hotel and Leisure Group at Wedlake Bell, said: “Employers should not take this decision as an encouragement to roster employees to work longer hours with fewer breaks, as they can still be exposed to claims for work related stress, personal injury and negligence.”
The decision particularly affects the hospitality industry where staff often work double shifts, sometimes working up to 15 hours at a time. It has been commonly assumed that staff working these hours would be entitled to two breaks, but under the Working Time Regulations Act (1998), employees will now only be entitled to one period of rest.
“Back-to-back shifts can create health and safety problems for businesses,” continued Yew. “Managers really need to think about the way they compile their duty rosters, as consecutive shifts days on end may prove to bring more harm than benefit to their company.”
The Tribunal also decided that where an employer wishes to make a grievance, they have up to six months to submit a complaint, and therefore compensation can now also be awarded for that time.