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Employment Law Case Update: Carreras v United First Partnership Research

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Mr Carreras was employed by United First Partnership Research (United) from October 2011 to February 2014, where he would typically work 12-13 hour days. In July 2012, Mr Carreras suffered a serious bike accident and had to take several weeks off work. Following his return he continued to suffer from physical symptoms of the accident – dizziness, headaches, fatigue and difficulty in concentrating and working late.

Following the accident, Mr Carreras worked no more than eight hours a day within the first six months of his return. However, at the end of 2013 he began to work ten hour days but came under pressure to increase his hours yet again. Requests were made by United for Mr Carreras to work later and, as Mr Carreras didn’t object, it was assumed he would do so. Mr Carreras feared he would be made redundant and United would withhold his bonus payments if he did not increase his working hours.

In February 2014, Mr Carreras sent an email to Mr Mardel, one of the owners of the business, objecting to working late hours due to tiredness. Mr Mardel then told him, in a verbal exchange, if he did not like it he could leave. Mr Carreras left the office and told a colleague in Human Resources he found Mr Mardel’s behaviour to be abusive and unacceptable – and was resigning.

Mr Carreras brought claims of constructive unfair dismissal and disability discrimination to the Employment Tribunal (ET). Mr Carreras argued United failed to make reasonable adjustments in relation to his working hours, amounting to a Provision, Criterion, or Practice (PCP). Both claims were rejected, finding that Mr Carreras was only asked by his employer to work longer hours, rather than being required to do so.

Mr Carreras appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT). The EAT found the approach adopted by the ET towards the PCP too narrow. The assumption by United that Mr Carreras would work late became a requirement to do so, amounting to a PCP.

United appealed to the Court of Appeal.  It agreed with the EAT that the ET had been too narrow in its approach and its interpretation of the term “required”.  The ET was wrong to dismiss Mr Carreras’ claim and found he was being “coerced” to work late, as opposed to merely expected. It was clear from other parts of his claim that Mr Carreras felt under pressure to work late and “required” would encompass this. 

This case acknowledges that workplace culture, including spoken and unspoken rules, can make employees feel obliged to work in certain ways. In this case it was the assumption to work long hours that amounted to a PCP. This case shows the broad nature of what can be interpreted as a PCP.  One thing that remains unclear following this case is what the outcome would have been had there been no verbal request to work longer hours and if Mr Carreras would have felt obliged to work longer hours out of fear or because the rest of his colleagues were doing so.

This article is from our weekly Employment Law Newsletter published on 22/03/2018.  If you would like to receive this newsletter directly and be kept up to date with recent cases and Employment Law news, email events@warnergoodman.co.uk.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.