Can an employee claim compensation for ‘injury to feelings’ because of a lack of rest breaks?
This question was put to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in the recent case of Santos Gomes v Higher Level Care Ltd.
Ms Gomes claimed against her employer (amongst other things), that they had not provided her with rest breaks of 20 minutes when her shift was more than six hours.
Her employer is required to do this under the Working Time Regulations (WTR).
The Employment Tribunal awarded her £1,220 for this failure. This covered her pay for the time she’d spent working rather than resting.
Ms Gomes claimed an entitlement to injury to feelings as the failure to provide rest breaks had made her ill. The Tribunal rejected this, and this was supported by the EAT.
What this means for you
There are numerous employment claims that can allow an employee to claim injury to feelings.
Discrimination claims are the main one and injury to feelings can often be the more valuable award with top claims up to £30,000.
It’s not prohibited in the WTR to claim injury to feelings for a breach. But the EAT didn’t consider it was a valid head of claim and refused to award it.
However, breaching the WTR is an area that’s likely to have an effect on the health of an employee.
In this case, Ms Gomes could choose to pursue a personal injury claim if she could show that:
- She had an injury (something greater than just being upset)
- It was caused by her employer
- It was caused by them failing to give her these rest breaks
Employers should make sure they fully understand the Working Time Regulations, and what is required to protect the health of employees.
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