In the last quarter of last year, a long-awaited amendment to the Labour Code came into force, which brought many significant changes in the field of labour relations. A brief summary of the amended areas, which include, for example, the extension of the information obligation towards employees or new rights for caring employees, can be found in our two-part series of articles here and here.
Beyond the mandatory transposition of EU directives or in response to the requirements of current practice, the amendment took into account the case law conclusions of the CJEU regarding continuous weekly rest and at the same time modified the existing legal terminology of rest between two shifts. We will focus on both of these institutes of rest in today’s, and the last, article of our thematic series.
Uninterrupted daily rest
First of all, the amendment changes the existing terminology, replacing the original “rest between two shifts” with “continuous daily rest”. As the European Directive requires, the decisive criterion for the provision of this continuous rest is the cycle of 24 consecutive hours, not the total time between the end of one shift and the start of the next.
Employers must now provide continuous daily rest of at least 11 hours over 24 consecutive hours, and at least 12 hours for minors. Employers will also be obliged to provide it on days when the employee has only been assigned to work overtime.
A significant modification from the point of view of occupational safety and health is the employer’s obligation to provide the employee with continuous daily rest in real terms, and not just to schedule it, as this requirement sounded before the amendment.
Uninterrupted rest during the week
There has also been an amendment regarding uninterrupted weekly rest, in response to the CJEU judgment in Case C-477/21 (MÁV-START) of 2 March 2023, which formulated fundamental conclusions regarding the provision of uninterrupted weekly rest and uninterrupted daily rest to employees.
According to the above-mentioned judgment, Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 November 2003 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time was incorrectly transposed. Previous practice and interpretation have shown that the Czech legislators set a longer weekly rest period, i.e. 35 hours, in which they erroneously included 11 hours of continuous daily rest (formerly inter-shift rest). In practice, this then led to the conclusion that the employee should have been given 35 hours of weekly rest plus 11 hours of daily rest, i.e. that the employee should have been entitled to a total of 46 hours of weekly rest.
According to the amended text, which entered into force on 1 January 2024, the amount of continuous weekly rest is reduced to 24 hours, to which 11 hours of continuous daily rest must be added. The existing legal regulation of 35 hours of rest is thus effectively maintained.
Rules for technological processes and operation in agriculture
The amendment also lays down some special rules for technological processes and operations in agriculture, where the period of uninterrupted rest during the week may be reduced in certain circumstances and under certain conditions. In the case of technological processes which cannot be interrupted, the employer may reduce the continuous weekly rest period only so that it is at least 24 hours.
In agriculture, a reduction in continuous weekly rest may be agreed, provided that the period by which it is reduced shall not be given separately but only with other continuous weekly rest, so that the employee is given continuous weekly rest for a period of (i) 3 weeks of at least 105 hours, or (ii) 6 weeks of at least 210 hours for seasonal work.
How to do it in practice?
Since the above-mentioned adjustments in the area of rest periods were not made as a result of an amendment in the true sense of the word, but in order to correct the incorrect transposition of the European directive, employers should respond without undue delay and provide rest periods in accordance with the above interpretation. This is the only way to effectively avoid any possible controls by the administrative authorities.
A crucial topic, although not affected by the amendment, is the recording of working time, shift planning and, in general, the supervision of compliance with the rules in relation to the employee’s working time.
Adjustments to the conditions for the provision of uninterrupted daily rest and uninterrupted weekly rest are particularly important for employees working in shift work. Their employers must take particular care to ensure that rest is not just scheduled but actually taken.
At the same time, employers must adjust the current practice of providing both types of rest, so that if an employee is entitled to both continuous daily rest and continuous weekly rest, both should be properly provided, with the daily rest right being taken first and the minimum weekly rest right second.
Should you have any questions about the amendment to the Labour Code or need assistance with updating your existing employment documentation, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time.
Mgr. Kateřina Lansdorfová, junior lawyer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mgr. Radim Šulc, junior lawyer – email@example.com
Rachel Kouklíková, legal assistant – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mgr. Jakub Málek, managing partner – email@example.com
29. 1. 2024