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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 70855
Experience:  Qualified Employment Solicitor
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I work at in independent school which id based in our town

Customer Question

Hi I work at in independent school which id based in our town centre. When we returned to school after the summer break I was told that once I was in school I could not leave the premises at lunchtime. I have an hour's unpaid lunch and at present have to spend it in my 8ft x 8ft office, we have been told we can have 15 minutes in the staff room provided there are no more than 5 people in there. It is really getting me down because the only ventilation is my window, which I cannot reach to open and which open onto the playground - really noisy, it is also very cold and the only heating I have is a plug in one which blows heat out from the top, if I keep my door open (which is 2 metres distance from my chair, I have to put a chair in the doorway to stop anyone coming in as there is no social distancing being practised in the school, all, the teachers and staff have been forbidden from leaving, the new headteacher has said it is because she wants to keep COVID from entering the school, I catch the bus to school and have to walk past people to get to school, I also go for a coffee before I start and some teachers go and get a sandwich etc from the shops that are open, my argument is that I am more likely to catch it at school than in town, and what is the difference between coming to work in the morning to lunchtime, one member of staff frequently goes to the bank and the head herself goes out of school for meetings, I don't get paid for my lunch break and my contract does not say I cannot leave the premises. Can she sack me if I go out - with Christmas coming we all want to be able to go out at lunchtime as being in school and my office for 7 hours I just want to go home after work at 3.30, also the banks close at 3 so if I have to go to the bank I have to work my lunch break in order for me to finish at 2.30, can you please advise, sorry it's so long
JA: Have you discussed the termination with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: No, the head teacher is the manager, I really just want to know if she has the right to stop us all from leaving the premises bearing in mind we do not get paid for our lunch break, when I challenged her about it she gave me a verbal warning, which she later had to retract as she didn't follow procedure
JA: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: I am an employee
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: No
Submitted: 10 days ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 10 days ago.

Hello, I’m Ben. It’s my pleasure to assist you today. I may also ask for some preliminary information to help me determine the legal position.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 10 days ago.

I am sorry to hear of the difficulty you are having with this. Can I just check, are you the only employee that has been asked to do this? Also, how long have you worked there for?

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
No all staff I've worked here 11.5 years
Customer: replied 10 days ago.
I'm at work so cant speak
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 10 days ago.

OK I understand and thank you for providing this information. Please do not worry and leave it with me for now; I will get back to you with my answer as soon as I can, which will be at some point today. The system will notify you when this happens. Please do not reply in the meantime as this may unnecessarily delay my response. Many thanks.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 10 days ago.

Many thanks for your patience, I am pleased to be able to continue assisting with your query now. First of all, I am sorry to hear about the issues you have experienced in your situation.

Your legal rights to rest breaks at work are governed under the Working Time Regulations 1998. The particular section about the rest break entitlement is here:

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1998/1833/regulation/12/made

The relevant part is this:

“the rest break provided for in paragraph (1) is an uninterrupted period of not less than 20 minutes, and the worker is entitled to spend it away from his workstation if he has one.”

So as you can see, you have the legal right to spend your rest break away from your workstation, which means away from the place where you work. That does not mean leaving the premises, but it does mean stepping away from the usual place where you do your work, be it a classroom, office, staff room. That could mean being allowed to walk around the grounds, or go to other places which are not ordinarily considered your workstation.

Hopefully, I have answered your query in a way that is simple and easy to understand. If anything remains unclear, I will be more than happy to clarify it for you. In the meantime, thank you once again for using our services.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 10 days ago.

I hope that your query has been answered to your satisfaction. I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that if you needed any further clarification with this query, you should not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to help. For now, thank you for using our services.