The European Court of Justice has delivered a ruling that has resulted in a change to the official DTI Guidance on the Working Time Directive. 
 
Under the Working Time Directive, EU member countries are required to ensure that workers are entitled to specific periods of rest from work: 11 uninterrupted hours of rest every 24 hours, and at least a further 24 continuous hours off every seven days.  The DTI's guidance on the issue informed employers that they "must make sure that workers can take their rest but are not required to make sure that they do take their rest."
 
Amicus complained to the European Commission about the DTI's guidance.  They, and the Commission, felt that the wording of the Guidance "encouraged a practice of non-compliance with the Working Time Directive."  The UK argued that interpreting the Working Time Directive as requiring that employers ensure that their workers take their breaks would be impractical and damaging to business.
 
The European Court held the same view as the Commission - if the rights in the Directive are not fully effective in member states, then the Directive is neutered and useless. The Court said that, as the DTI Guidance indicated that employers were not required to ensure that workers actually exercised their rights under the Directive, it "does not guarantee compliance" with the Directive.  As a result, employers must now ensure that their workers do take their rest breaks, or they will find themselves breaking the law.
 
However, the European Court stopped short of requiring that employers "force" staff to take breaks.  Clarifying the subtle difference between ensuring that breaks are taken, and forcing the taking of breaks will very likely require litigation.

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