The Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) interprets EU law with the aim of ensuring that such law is applied in the same way in all Member States.
In a most recent Preliminary Ruling delivered by the CJEU in Case-477/21 (‘Case’), the Court made it amply clear that the daily rest periods and weekly rest periods to which employees are entitled to by virtue of the Working Time Directive (‘Directive’) are two separate rights of the employee.
The Case revolved around a train driver employed by MÁV-START, the Hungarian national railway company, who challenged the decision of his employer not to grant him a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours in accordance with the Directive when that daily rest period preceded or followed a weekly rest period or a period of leave.
The employer claimed that since the collective agreement applicable to the case granted a minimum weekly rest period of at least 42 hours, well in excess of the weekly rest period required by the Directive, that of 24 hours, the employee was not being disadvantaged in any way.
The Hungarian Court therefore asked the Court of Justice in particular whether, under the Directive, a daily rest period granted concurrently with a weekly rest period forms part of that weekly rest period or is separate to it.
The CJEU detailed that daily and weekly rest periods constitute two independent rights which employees are entitled to and, which pursue different objectives.
The CJEU highlighted that whilst daily rest periods allow a worker to remove himself or herself from his or her working environment for a specific number of hours, which must not only be consecutive but must also directly follow a period of work, on the other hand weekly rest periods allow a worker to rest during a seven-day period.
To this end, the CJEU remarked that employees must be guaranteed the actual enjoyment of each of those rights, in a separate manner, thereby confirming that the daily rest period has to be enjoyed regardless of the weekly rest period which precedes or follows it, in that the daily rest period is to be enjoyed as a whole, separately to the minimum period for the right to weekly rest.
The CJEU also noted that the fact that Hungarian law contained more favourable conditions in comparison with the Directive, in relation to the minimum weekly rest period, did not mean that such could deprive an employee of other rights conferred by the Directive.
The CJEU therefore confirmed that the daily rest period must be granted irrespective of the length of the weekly rest period provided for by the applicable national legislation.
In terms of Maltese law, this Preliminary Ruling of the CJEU confirms that employees are entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours and to an uninterrupted weekly rest period of 24 hours in addition to the 11 hours daily rest within a seven day period, or 48 consecutive hours in a period of fourteen days in addition to the 11 hours daily rest period. Limited exceptions to such rules exist in terms of law, in that there may be the possibility for an employee not to take the full rest period, provided that equivalent compensatory rest periods are given to the employee concerned at times immediately following the corresponding periods worked.
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