The European Working Time Directives state that every worker must receive a twenty minute break during their working day.
The Police Regulations 2003 (as ammended) state that every officer should be given a mealbreak and the time allowed depends on the length of the shift that you work:
|Less than 6 hours||30 minutes|
|6 or more hours but less than 7||35 minutes|
|7 or more hours but less than 8||40 minutes|
|8 or more hours but less than 9||45 minutes|
|9 or more hours but less than 10||50 minutes|
|10 or more hours||60 minutes|
Where the Regulations are more favourable than the Working Time Directives the most beneficial to the employee apply and so the Police Regulations apply.
The only time that you can be required to forego a break is if there is an exigency of duty. This means something urgent, pressing and unforeseen. This might include a major incident requiring significant resources. It does NOT include a 999 call. 999 calls whilst urgent and possibly pressing are not unforeseen and are normal business for the police. Sufficient resources should be provided to enable officers to answer 999 calls and take breaks. It should only be in exceptional circumstances that you do not get a break NOT a regular occurence.
If officers do not get breaks they can take the organisation to an Employment Tribunal. There have been two interesting cases that are applicable to the police that have been won by employees.
In North Wales a custody sergeant had no opportunity to take a break as there was no provision by the organisation to provide cover to allow them to do so. His inspector told him to take a break within the custody suite as and when he could. An Employment Tribunal ruled that the custody sergeant must be provided with a break and that break should be away from the workplace. i.e. outside of the custody suite.
A British Airways employee was advised by their manager to take a break as and when they could during their shift. The employee regularly had no opportunity to take a break. An employment Tribunal ruled that this was unacceptable and it was for the employees managers to organise a time and cover for a break to be taken.
Employment Tribunal cases are not binding on other Employment Tribunals in the same way as Courts are. Nonetheless, these two cases are very applicable to Custody and response within Surrey Police and give a clear idea as to what is acceptable regarding breaks.
Surrey Police Federation are currently working with the senior management to ensure that custody and response staff receive their statutory breaks.