The issue of rest breaks was recently highlighted by the Workplace Relations Commission (the “WRC”) when it ordered Paddy Power to pay approximately €90,000 for failure to provide rest breaks to its employees.
According to the article below, between 65 and 70 employees of Paddy Power brought complaints to the WRC through their union (Mandate Trade Union), with each employee being awarded between €700 and €1,000 compensation for being denied rest breaks.
So what are employees entitled to?
Despite the fact that a ‘lunch hour’ is the norm for many employees, employees have no actual entitlement to a ‘lunch hour’ as such.
Employers are, however, required to provide:
- a 30 minute break to employees who work more than 6 hours per day (inclusive of the 15 minutes break below); and
- a 15 minute break to employees who work more than 4 ½ hours per day.
Employees are also entitled to:
- a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours; and
- a weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours.
In addition, employers must not allow employees to work more than 48 hours per week, calculated over a period of 4 months in the case of most employees.
Ultimately, the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the above obligations rests with the employer, and not the employee. To demonstrate compliance, employers are required to keep records (for a period of three years) in relation to working time. The Organisation of Working Time (Records) (Prescribed Form and Exemptions) Regulations 2001 specifies that the following records must be kept:
- the days and hours worked each week by each employee;
- any days and hours of annual leave and public holidays granted in each week to each employee and the payments made in relation to that leave;
- any additional day’s pay in respect of public holidays provided in each week to each employee; and
- notifications of starting and finishing times each week, if not specified in employment contracts.
Employers should also be aware that failure to keep working time records is an offence, punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding €1,900.
Given that there are only a limited number of exceptions to the above obligations, employers are strongly encouraged to ensure compliance and to put in place a system to accurately record working time, including the timing and duration of breaks (if one does not already exist). Otherwise, employers could face WRC complaints from disgruntled employees who may be awarded such amount as is just and equitable, capped at a maximum of 2 years’ gross remuneration, per employee.
Feel free to contact Leman Solicitors, should you need any advice in relation to compliance with the working time legislation.
The WRC ruled that the employer does not keep appropriate records to show that employees are getting the breaks to which they are entitled.