Judgment of the Court of Justice of March 2, 2023, with reference to Directive 2003/88. Distinction between the right to weekly rest and the right to daily rest.
The judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-477/21 aims to provide an important clarification regarding the distinction between the right to daily rest, introduced in Article 3 of the Directive 2003/88, and the right to weekly rest, in Article 5 of the abovementioned directive. As a result of this interpretation by the case law, EU Member States must refer to daily rest and weekly rest as two separate and autonomous rights, with no possibility of union between them.
Decision of the Court of Justice
The cornerstones of the Court of Justice’s March 2, 2023 ruling are mainly three:
- Daily rest is not part of the weekly rest, but must be added to it.
- This distinction, expressed in point 1, also applies when the national legislation of a Member State establishes a weekly rest that is higher than the minimum provided by the European Union in the Directive 2003/88: 24 hours.
- Daily rest must be provided even when that period directly precedes weekly rest.
Dispute between MÁV-START and the employed driver
The judgment of March 2, 2023, settled the dispute created between the Hungarian railway company MÁV-START and one of its employed train drivers. The employee had been denied daily rest whenever the latter preceded the weekly rest. MÁV-START justified its actions by pointing out that the Hungarian law provided a greater weekly rest period than the minimum required by the relevant EU directive: 32 consecutive hours of rest as opposed to the minimum 24 hours specified in the Directive 2003/88; therefore, they considered the employee sufficiently protected. However, the ECJ supported the employee’s position, stating that the weekly rest cannot cancel the daily rest, but must be added to it.
Directive 2003/88/EC: definition of daily rest and weekly rest
The definitions describing the two types of rest to which reference is being made are expressed in the Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of November 4, 2003, concerning certain aspects of the organization of the working time. In Article 3, daily rest is introduced as follows:
“Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.”
In Article 5, on the other hand, we can read the definition of weekly rest:
“Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that, per each seven-day period, every worker is entitled to a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours plus the 11 hours’ daily rest referred to in Article 3.”
Transposition of the directive in Italy: Legislative Decree of April 8, 2003 No. 66
Within the Italian jurisdiction, this directive was transposed through Legislative Decree of April 8, 2003 No. 66, which implemented the Directives 93/104/EC and 2000/34/EC, further amendment was not necessary. In the text of the abovementioned decree, daily rest is introduced in Article 7, without any change from the original directive. Whereas, as far as weekly rest is concerned, this is made explicit in Article 9:
“The worker shall be entitled every seven days to a rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours, as a rule coinciding with Sunday, to be cumulated with the hours of daily rest referred to in Article 7.”
By using the term cumulate, it can be understood how no changes are necessary within the decree to implement the decision made by the ECJ. In fact, the two rights: daily rest and weekly rest, are already identified as autonomous.
Consequences of the Judgment in the Member States
The consequences of the judgment introduced in this article directly involve all member states of the European Union. The employment contracts of all employees occupied in the Member States should be aligned with this interpretation: ensuring weekly rest and daily rest, even when the latter directly precedes the weekly rest and even when, within the relevant national legislation, an employee’s weekly rest is greater than the EU minimum: 24 consecutive hours. In Italy, if a national labor contract is not in line with what is illustrated, the latter should be promptly amended, since it contravenes the Legislative Decree of April 8, 2003, which in turn is overridden by the Directive 2003/88 and the latest ruling of the Court of Justice.
The national contracts of the other member states should in turn align themselves with this decision: where the national legislation does not make explicit the distinction and consequent autonomy of the two rights, any employee will be able to rely on this decision of the Court of Justice as a precedent.