High Court Decision In Relation To Compensatory Rest Breaks At Work

The recent High Court decision of Mr. Andrius Stasaitis v Noonan Service Group Limited & Anor1. addressed compensatory rest breaks at work under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (the "1997 Act").


The appellant, Mr. Stasaitis was employed by the respondent as a security officer at the premises of DHL Logistics. Mr. Stasaitis worked alone from a security hut at the entrance to the premises. He worked 8 hour shifts and was not permitted to leave the security hut except to check vehicles entering and leaving the warehouse facility. The respondent did not schedule specific breaks for the appellant over the course of his shift and the onus was on Mr. Stasaitis to take his breaks during periods of inactivity during his shift.

Mr. Stasaitis contended that the respondents were in breach of their statutory obligations in failing to provide for specific break periods. Mr. Stasaitis' claim under the 1997 Act was rejected by the Rights Commissioner and subsequently on appeal by the Labour Court. Mr. Stasaitis appealed the decision to the High Court on a point of law.

Compensatory Rest Breaks under the 1997 Act

The 1997 Act entitles employees to daily rest breaks, interval breaks and weekly rest breaks. For example, an employee is entitled to a 15 minute break where the employee has worked up to 4.5 hours and a 30 minute break where the employee has worked up to 6 hours which may include the first 15 minute break. These breaks cannot be taken at the end of the working day. Certain employees and certain sectors of work are excluded either under the 1997 Act, or under specific regulations, from the provisions in the 1997 Act in relation to rest periods.


The Organisation of Working Time (General Exemptions) Regulations 1998 2 (the "Regulations") provide that persons 'wholly or mainly' employed in the activities specified in the Regulations shall be exempt from daily rest breaks, period interval breaks, weekly rest breaks, restrictions on the length of night work and the requirement of prior notification of start and finish times. The specified activities are:

those regularly required by the employer to travel significant distances; security or surveillance workers required to be continuously present at a particular place or places; an activity falling within a sector of the economy or in the public service where production or service requirement varies significantly but the employee's presence is necessary to ensure...

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