Not all workers get 20 uninterrupted minutes off

In the recent case of Network Rail Infrastructure v Crawford, for workers deemed “special workers”, compensatory rest need not be an uninterrupted break for 20 minutes.

This case concerned a railway signal controller, who had more than 20 minutes’ break available to him in an eight-hour shift but his breaks weren’t for a continuous 20 minutes due to the nature of his job.

Employees are entitled to an uninterrupted 20-minute break, says Regulation 12 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”), unless they are excluded by Regulation 21, which specifies that certain “special workers” need not strictly adhere to Regulation 12. However, this is subject to Regulation 24, which deals with compensatory rest and obliges employers to provide equivalent value compensatory rest to special workers.

Legal opinion

This may give some employers greater flexibility in managing shifts and cover at work, but employers must not forget the importance of encouraging their employees to take these breaks in order to protect their well-being and safeguard health and safety, as intended by the above WTR regulations. The case also clarifies that, even if an employer can manage the rota so that these special workers receive the uninterrupted 20-minute break, it is not obliged to, provided that the break allotted is of equivalent compensatory value.