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Veronika Odrobinová | March 15, 2023

Uninterrupted weekly rest period – a landmark CJEU ruling pushes the boundaries

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The judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) of 2 March 2023 in Case C-477/21, interpreting Articles 3 and 5 of Directive[1] and Article 31(1) of the EU Charter[2], made it clear that the uninterrupted weekly rest period for employees in the Czech Republic must be at least 46 hours, not 35 hours as explicitly stated in the Labour Code.

In the judgment, a Hungarian employee argued that after the minimum weekly continuous rest period, the employee should also be given a daily rest period. The employer argued that the daily rest period is already part of the weekly rest period.

The CJEU also addressed the question whether or not the employee is also entitled to a daily rest period, even if the weekly rest period exceeds 35 hours.

According to the CJEU, the daily rest period is not part of the weekly rest period. At the same time, the daily rest period precedes the weekly rest period, so that the employee’s right to a daily rest period (at least 11 hours) is added to the employee’s right to a weekly rest period (at least 24 hours)[3]. This right is not affected by the fact that the Member State has granted the employee an increased weekly rest period (35 hours in the Czech Republic – see below).

The Czech Labour Code[4] provides that the employer is obliged to schedule working hours in such a way that the employee has an uninterrupted rest period of at least 35 hours per week.

Although Czech law uses different terminology from Article 5 of the Directive (continuous weekly rest instead of weekly rest periods). However, the CJEU argues that Article 5 of Directive 2003/88 makes no reference to the national law of the Member States. The terms it uses must therefore be understood as autonomous concepts of Union law and interpreted uniformly throughout the territory of the Union, regardless of the qualifications used in the Member States.[5]

The aforementioned is probably a consequence of inaccurate implementation of the Directive by the legislator and misunderstanding of the meaning of the given provision, when the sum of the two rest periods was directly enshrined without it being expressed in a corresponding way in words (24 + 11 = 35). It is thus possible that the legislator will seek to amend the Labour Code.

In practice, however, this means that a number of employers, especially those with shift work or unevenly distributed working hours or working time limits in the Czech Republic, do not provide their employees with sufficient uninterrupted rest during the week. It is therefore appropriate to reconsider these schedules. Providers of various HR and time and attendance systems will also have a hard time.

[1] 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.

[2] Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

[3] Point 43 of the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU of 2 March 2023 in Case C-477/21

[4] Section 92(1) of Act No. 262/2006 Coll., the Labour Code, as amended

[5] Point 47 of the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU of 2 March 2023 in Case C-477/21

Author: Veronika Odrobinová, Petr Berdych