In its recent judgment of 2 March 2023, the CJEU ruled on the concepts of daily and weekly rest period and their relation. The judgment fundamentally contradicts the approach reinforced in the Hungarian Labour Code this year; therefore the legislator has to change the concept of rest periods to comply with the EU Working Time Directive.
(In this article, we analyse the judgment 02/03/2023 - MÁV-START Case C-477/21)
The decision by the CJEU
A train driver employed by MÁV-START, the Hungarian national railway company, challenged before a Hungarian labour court the decision of his employer not to grant him a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours (which the worker must be granted during each 24-hour period under the Working Time Directive) when that period precedes or follows a weekly rest period or a period of leave.
MÁV-START claimed that it grants a minimum weekly rest period of at least 42 hours, that is well in excess of that required by the Directive (24 hours), its employee is not in any way disadvantaged by its decision.
The Hungarian court asked the CJEU, in particular whether, under the Directive, a daily rest period granted concurrently with a weekly rest period forms part of that weekly rest period.
The CJEU noted that daily and weekly rest periods constitute two autonomous rights, which pursue different objectives. Consequently, the daily rest period does not form part of the weekly rest period but is additional to it, even if the daily rest period directly precedes the latter.
The Court also noted that the more favourable provisions laid down in Hungarian law, in comparison with the Directive, in respect of the minimum weekly rest period cannot deprive a worker of other rights which that directive confers on him or her, and in particular of the right to daily rest. Therefore, daily rest must be granted irrespective of the length of the weekly rest period provided for by the applicable national legislation.
In many EU countries, the minimum weekly rest period is described as a set at 35 consecutive hours, which consists of the weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, in addition to the daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours (before the weekly rest). Therefore, the two different rests are provided under a separate legal title.
In contrast, according to the general rules of the Hungarian Labour Code, the weekly rest period is stipulated in calendar days (Saturday and Sunday), so the weekly rest period in itself is 48 consecutive hours, but at the same time, the Labour Code states that daily rest period shall not be provided, in case no work is scheduled on the next day (i.e. before the weekly rest period).
Although it is apparent that the approach of the Hungarian legislator was to set forth a longer weekly rest period (two calendar days), which in fact covers the minimum 24 hours weekly rest + the preceding 11 hours daily rest, required by the Directive, the Hungarian legislation does not reflect the approach of the Directive, i.e. that daily rest and weekly rest has to be treated as separate rights and shall be provided under separate titles.
Since the CJEU confirmed that the approach reinforced in the Hungarian Labour Code this year is not in line with EU law, the lawmakers will have to amend the Labour Code again and introduce a new concept regarding daily and weekly rest periods that corresponds to the approach of the Directive.
By Peter Gritta, Attorney-at-law, SmartLegal Schmidt & Partners