UK: Take a Break

Last Updated: 27 July 2004
Article by Amanda McGurran

Many of you will be involved in businesses that use shift patterns. If so, the recent European Court of Justice case of Landeshauptstadt Kiel v Norbert Jaeger (2003) will be of interest to you. The decision was widely reported in the employment law press when it was handed down in September 2003.

The case focused on whether the time spent asleep on call by doctors working at a hospital was "working time" within the Working Time Directive. The Working Time Directive was implemented in the UK by the Working Time Regulations 1998 ("WTR). This part of the decision attracted the majority of publicity, but the case also involved another working time issue which has not attracted nearly as much publicity as it deserves, that of "compensatory rest". While this aspect of the decision has largely been overlooked, it is of no less importance to those of you who employ workers on shift patterns, than other working time issues.

The Impact of Jaeger

Under the WTR, workers are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 hours in every 24 (Regulation 10 (1)). Regulation 11 (1) gives workers the right to an uninterrupted weekly rest period of at least 24 hours in every 7-day period. If this is not possible, you can give workers 2 uninterrupted rest periods of at least 24 hours, or have one uninterrupted rest period of 48 hours, in each 14-day period (Regulation 11 (2)).

Under Regulation 22, these minimum rest periods do not apply to shift workers if they are unable to take the relevant rest period between the end of one shift and the start of the next, for example because of business needs. If this is the case, the workers are entitled to equivalent compensatory rest to make up for the rest period they missed.

As well as daily and weekly rest periods, your workers are entitled to a daily break of at least 20 minutes if they work for a minimum uninterrupted period of 6 hours. Again, if your worker cannot take this daily break during a shift, he must be given equivalent compensatory rest.

Some shift patterns mean that the workers cannot take their minimum daily and weekly rest periods when they fall due. With long shifts, workers may not be able to take the necessary rest periods between the end of one shift and the start of the next.

DTI guidance on working time states that workers are entitled to a total of 90 hours’ rest per week (adding up daily and weekly rest periods). The shift workers exception under Regulation 22 (see above) allows you to use a different rest pattern to the WTR, provided all workers get an average of 90 hours’ rest a week. This suggests that you can provide compensatory rest at a later date to when it falls due, provided the worker’s health and safety is protected.

The Jaeger decision appears to contradict this guidance, as it indicates that equivalent compensatory rest must follow on immediately from the working period when the relevant rest period was not taken. In practice, this could have a disastrous effect on your business and mean that you have to rethink your shift patterns – the decision means that you cannot require the worker to start the next shift until he has had compensatory rest for the previous one. However, all is not lost. If your shift pattern is an "exceptional case", you should be able to work around this.

Regulation 24 (b) allows you to give the worker appropriate protection to safeguard their health or safety where, in exceptional cases only, it is not possible for objective reasons to grant compensatory rest. It is not clear what constitutes an exceptional case, or indeed what the objective reasons are. There may be circumstances where you can argue that a shift pattern which means that workers cannot take compensatory rest before the start of the next working period, amounts to an exceptional case. This will very much depend on the facts in each situation.

It looks like exceptional cases will be construed narrowly by the Courts, so take care not to apply Regulation 24 (b) without proper consideration to the facts and the health and safety needs of the workers involved. There is no doubt that the decision in Jaeger on compensatory rest will have ramifications for your business unless you fall within an exceptional case. Watch this space, as we doubt this is the last we will hear from Jaeger.

Tips for Protecting Workers

If you do need to use shift patterns which do not allow workers sufficient opportunity to take compensatory rest when it falls due, we would suggest the following ways of protecting their health and safety:

  • Ensure that your workers still receive their 20-minute daily breaks.
  • Consider whether you can rotate workers’ tasks to reduce monotony and tiredness.
  • Give your night workers regular health checks (as the WTR require you to do in any event).
  • Review your working patterns to see where you should be giving compensatory rest.
  • Consider recruiting additional staff so that shifts can be distributed between more workers.
  • Where possible, provide any compensatory rest before the start of the next working period.
  • Keep the use of exceptional cases, where objective reasons mean you cannot give compensatory rest, to an absolute minimum.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions