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When should employees take their weekly rest?

December 1, 2017
Employment Law

It would be easy to imagine that the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) are solely concerned with the issue of holiday pay. After all, that’s what the disputed cases are almost always about. But the recent case of Maio Marques da Rosa v Varzim Sol reminds us that the WTR (and the EU Working Time Directive (WTD) on which they are based) give workers a variety of other rights as well. 

Working Time’ rights

Amongst other things, the WTR and WTD entitle workers to: - Minimum rest breaks during the working day; - Minimum periods of rest between consecutive days of work; and - One day’s ‘weekly rest’ during each 7-day period. But when should this ‘weekly rest’ be taken?

Mr Marques da Rosa worked in a casino. During the course of his employment, Mr M was routinely required to work for 7 days in a row. After his employment terminated, he brought claims against Varzim Sol, arguing that this arrangement was unlawful under the WTD.

The ECJ’s decision

After the case was sent to the European Court of Justice, the ECJ judges came down in Varzim Sol’s favour, indicating that employers enjoy a considerable degree of flexibility in terms of when ‘weekly rest’ should be taken. It is not the case that after 6 days of work, the employee is automatically entitled to the 7th day off. Instead, the ECJ concluded that an employee could conceivably be required to work up to 12 days in a row, if a worker’s weekly rest fell on the first day of one 7-day period and the last day of the subsequent 7-day period. 

Is your house in order?

This case is reassuring; it reminds of us that there is a good degree of flexibility in this area of law. By the same token, it would be dangerous to assume that you can do whatever you like, as long as your workers don’t object.

 If you want to put in place an unusual or atypical working time arrangement and have yet to check whether it complies with the law, please get in touch.

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