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Working long hours and reasonable adjustments

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Mr Carreras worked at United First Partners Research (the Company) as an Analyst. He worked extremely long hours, typically 12-15 hours a day.

In July 2012, he had a cycling accident which severely affected him physically and emotionally. As a result, Mr Carreras was not able to return to work on the same hours as before. Instead Mr Carreras worked approximately 8 hours a day.

The Company was aware of Mr Carreras symptoms, namely his dizziness, fatigue, headaches and difficulties with concentration but never sought to obtain any medical reports about his injuries.

About a year after his return to work, the Company asked Mr Carreras to work longer hours. It was agreed he would work later in the evenings, but Mr Carreras struggled and sent a formal complaint in February 2018 objecting to working late in the evenings.

A heated exchange of emails took place between Mr Carreras and one of the Company’s owners, following which Mr Carreras left the office and resigned.

Mr Carreras brought proceedings for disability discrimination, namely the failure to make reasonable adjustments. The claim was dismissed and Mr Carreras appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The EAT allowed the appeal stating that the Company’s requirement for Mr Carreras’ to work longer hours amounted to a provision, criterion or practice and therefore this would be relevant when deciding whether the Company failed to make reasonable adjustments.

The Company appealed to the Court of Appeal on the basis that Mr Carreras was not forced or coerced into working these later hours. The Court of Appeal accepted this point and held that the requirement to work longer hours did not amount to a provision, criterion or practice.

This case is a useful reminder to employers of the risks associated with individuals who are not able to fulfil their full contractual hours and duties, especially due to capability issues which could amount to a disability. Special rules apply to individuals who satisfy the legal definition of a disability, in particular the right to consider reasonable adjustments, the failure of which could make an employer liable in a disability discrimination claim.

United First were lucky in this case as they eventually won on appeal, although they would have incurred significant costs to get to this point. The lack of any procedures followed by the Company, especially not obtaining any reports into Mr Carreras’ medical condition did not help matters, as the Company were not fully aware of whether his condition amounted to a disability.

MFG Solicitors can advise on employment rights and help employers carry out their legal duties. For more information about how we could help you, please contact us.