Know employees rights to rest
Protection for workers comes from the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), which gives employees the right to rest breaks and holiday.
These regulations state that workers must have a rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24 hour period, and an uninterrupted rest of 24 hours per seven day period or 48 hours per 14-day period.
There are some permissible exceptions for certain jobs specified under the WTR, where continuity is required, but this would need to be in a formal collective agreement or workforce agreement.
With this in mind, you as an employer, must ensure that a worker can take their rest – but you don't need to force them to. If an employee voluntarily works during rest periods or rest breaks, for example, there is no problem with this, provided it doesn't affect their own or others' health and safety, and provided they don't exceed the 48-hour working week (unless the worker has opted out of the 48-hour week).
A worker can raise a claim if the employer has refused to permit them to have their rest period, or if the worker has been subjected to a detriment for exercising their rights to rest (which could include, for example, being overlooked for a promotion).
If you as an employer expect out of hours device checking whilst your worker is on holiday, you could either be faced with a request for holiday to replace the time lost, or find yourself facing a claim for compensation.
The solution? As ever, it’s a question of balance. There could be occasions where an employee will take the odd call outside of hours, but if they’re regularly expected to check and respond to emails, he or she could begin to make a case that they are always working, which could give rise to a claim if it interfered with their WTR right to rest. However, 11 hours' rest is not that long – so a worker who checks their device from 8am to 9pm is still likely to be within the WTR rest limits.