Working Time Regulations 1998 established the right to a 20-minute rest for most workers if they work for more than six hours a day. Workers aged 16 and 17 are entitled to a 30-minute break if they work longer than four-and-a-half hours.
The Trades Union Congress welcomed the ruling, claiming that a problem with the UK guidance is that it says 'employers must make sure workers can take their rest, but are not required to make sure that they do take their rest'. This, it says, has been interpreted as 'rest breaks can be lawfully denied'.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Employers will now have to do their utmost to ensure staff get the breaks they are entitled to."