Farm work notoriously involves long hours of hard work, especially at harvest and other peak times of the year. The recent case of Pazur v Lexington Catering Service Ltd  will therefore be of particular interest to farm businesses owners and managers. This case concerned a breach of the statutory entitlement to rest breaks, afforded by the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”) and serves as a useful reminder of the risk of legal proceedings if an employer even proposes to refuse to comply with the WTR.
Mr Pazur was asked to work an eight hour shift at a site, but was not allowed to take a rest break. He complained to his manager. When he was asked to work another shift at the same site, he refused to go because of what had happened previously. This led to his employer threatening him with dismissal and subsequently dismissing him.
Mr Pazur claimed that being threatened with dismissal was an unlawful detriment and was in contravention of the WTR (which states that employees are entitled to a 20 minute rest break for every 6 hours worked).
The case made its way to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which concluded that Mr Pazur had explicitly refused to return to work for the client, due to his concerns that he would not be able to take a rest break. This refusal had materially influenced the employer’s threat of dismissal and therefore Mr Pazur’s unlawful detriment claim succeeded.
This case highlights the need for employers to remain cautious when dismissing or taking any action against employees for issues relating to working time. It is important to note that a dismissal of an employee will be automatically unfair if the reason for dismissal is because the employee refused (or even proposed to refuse) to comply with a requirement, which their employer imposed (or proposed to impose) in contravention of the WTR.