Following a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Czech lawmakers have decided to modify the rules on providing weekly rest to employees when scheduling shifts: the CJEU deduced that daily rest is not part of the weekly rest but must be added on top of it. This applies even where the member state provides for weekly rest longer than required by EU law. The Czech Labour Code does not consider this interpretation, and the judgment has thus made things quite difficult for Czech employers. The amendment should eliminate the discrepancy.
A dispute referred to the CJEU by Hungarian courts concerned the interpretation of the EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of working time. According to its provisions, each employee is entitled to a minimum daily rest of 11 hours between shifts and a minimum weekly rest of 24 hours in each seven-day period. Therefore, to each weekly period of rest, the daily period of rest must be added.
The Czech Labour Code implements the directive as follows:
- daily rest is defined as continuous rest between two shifts and is set at 11 hours (for adult employees),
- for weekly rest, the law provides that employees are entitled to 35 hours.
The Labour Code has thus already responded to the directive's requirement, adding the daily rest period to the weekly rest period in the minimum scope of 24 hours.
However, according to the CJEU's interpretation, daily rest and weekly rest are two separate concepts that must be provided to employees on a separate basis. In the context of Czech law, this would mean that workers should be granted a weekly rest period of 35 hours, plus daily rest of 11 hours; each employee would thus be entitled to a total of 46 hours of weekly rest.
Weekly 35-hour rest maintained
The chamber of deputies responded rather quickly to this interpretation. As part of a major amendment to the Labour Code currently being debated, deputies came up with an amending proposal changing the provision on weekly rest to fully reflect the CJEU's interpretation. According to the new wording, the length of weekly rest is reduced to 24 hours, to which the 11 hours of daily rest shall be added. The 35-hour weekly rest rule is thus maintained. If the legislative process is completed as expected, the amendment should enter into effect on 1 January 2024.
Questions around daily rest
In the judgment, the CJEU also deduced that employees are entitled to daily rest even if their shift is not followed by further work. This means that an employee is entitled to rest even if, e.g., they take vacation after the end of their shift. Legislators have not responded to this conclusion by changing the wording of the Labour Code, but employers should nevertheless follow this rule in practice.
Although the issues concerning the interpretation of the length of the weekly rest will be resolved for the future, it remains to be seen how Czech courts will approach the CJEU’s interpretation and how they will take into account the current wording of the law, as some of the CJEU's conclusions are not entirely unambiguous.