international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Sweden: The European Court of Justice stated in a preliminary ruling that an employee’s right to daily rest pursuant to the Working Time Directive is in addition to their right to weekly rest

Author: Karolina Sundqvist

Pursuant to a Hungarian collective bargaining agreement, the train driver I.H. was entitled to a daily rest of 12 hours and a weekly rest of 48 hours. The working hours of I.H. were scheduled monthly, where the weekly rest was accumulated gradually so that it always averaged 48 hours. However, I.H. was not granted any daily rest either before or after the weekly rest, nor during holidays. The employer argued that the purpose of the daily rest is to enable the employee to rest between two shifts within a 24-hour period, and that the employee is not entitled to daily rest when there is no shift scheduled, such as during the weekly rest or holidays. The Hungarian court requested a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice.

Pursuant to the Working Time Directive, an employee is entitled to at least 11 hours of uninterrupted rest per 24 hours (daily rest) under Article 3 and, in addition, to 24 hours of interrupted rest in each seven-day period (weekly rest) under Article 5, in other words a total of 35 hours of rest. The Articles establish two separate rights with different purposes. The purpose of the daily rest is to enable the employee to leave his or her working environment for a period that is coherent and immediately follows the work shift. Weekly rest aims to give the employee the opportunity to rest during each seven-day period.

The Court stated that the Directive must be interpreted in the light of the fundamental right set out in Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This means that the employee´s rights must not be infringed by a restrictive interpretation of the Directive. The Court concluded that the daily rest in Article 3 is not part of the weekly rest in Article 5, instead it is additional to it. If the daily rest was a part of the weekly rest, it would result in an undermining of Article 3 and the employee would be deprived of this right. Furthermore, when national legislation provides a weekly rest of more than 35 hours, i.e., when it exceeds the required minimum pursuant to the Directive, daily rest must be granted in addition to it. Lastly, the Court stated that when an employee is granted a weekly rest period, the employee is also entitled to daily rest before that weekly rest.

Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel

The daily rest is not included in the weekly rest, and employees are entitled to their daily rest regardless of if it is in connection with their weekly rest or holiday or if the weekly rest exceeds the required minimum pursuant to the Working Time Directive.