Working late: does an expectation of long hours amount to a contract obligation?
In Carreras v United First Partners Research, the Tribunal considered whether an expectation to work late was a provision, which would trigger the duty to make reasonable adjustments for a disabled employee.
Carreras v United First Partners Research
It was a provision, criterion or practice (PCP) at the respondent company that employees were expected or presumed to work late.
Where a PCP exists that puts a disabled person at a disadvantage, there is a positive duty on an employer to make reasonable adjustments. As well as ensure no indirect disability discrimination.
Mr Carreras claimed that this PCP put him at a disadvantage because he was disabled.
He complained of symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue and headaches, as well as difficulty concentrating into the evenings, due to a road traffic accident.
Mr Carreras asked for an adjustment to not work evenings and resigned when it was not granted.
There was a dispute as to whether Mr Carreras was actually asked to work late or whether it was just assumed.
The Company said he was not asked and any late working was voluntary.
The Employment Tribunal agreed with the Company.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed with Mr Carreras.
In their view, an expectation or an assumption to work late amounted to a PCP and a reasonable adjustment should be put in place.
The EAT sent the case back to a Tribunal to determine what that reasonable adjustment was.
What this means for you
This case stretches the definition of what amounts to a PCP, so be aware that even expectations or assumptions by employers may amount to PCPs.
Reasonable adjustments must always be considered when a disabled person is put at a disadvantage as a result.
Reasonable adjustments are those that do not unduly disrupt the employer’s functions and make good the disadvantage.
It’s unlikely to be the case that Mr Carreras must never work late if it unduly disrupts the employer’s functions.
A more likely reasonable adjustment could be the provision of more breaks to enable recovery, and this would lessen once he recovered from the accident.
There’s nothing wrong generally with expecting people to work late. But don’t dismiss adjustments out of hand, and remember you have a right to set limits.
And you’re much more likely to get on the good side of a Tribunal by putting adjustments in place (even if they’re less than those requested by an employee) rather than ignoring them completely.
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