The UK is breaching European regulations on ensuring workers receive sufficient rest breaks, judges have ruled.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the government has violated terms contained in the controversial Working Time Directive.
Although the UK has an opt-out from the maximum 48-hour working week regulations, it is legally obliged to ensure that every worker has a minimum of 11 hours between each working day and a break of one day plus 11 hours for each seven-day period.
But the ECJ said that the government has not properly enforced the rules.
In official guidance to businesses, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said: “Employers must make sure that workers can take their rest, but are not required to make sure they do take their rest.”
The judges ruled that the DTI’s advice breaches the legislation as it encourages “a practice of non-compliance”.
In a statement, it said: “By providing that employers must merely give workers the opportunity to take the minimum rest periods provided for, without obliging them to ensure that those periods are actually taken, the guidelines are clearly liable to render the rights enshrined in the Directive meaningless and are incompatible with its objective.”