Carreras v United First Partnership Research

EAT decision confirming that an expectation that an employee should work long hours could be considered a 'provision, criterion or practice' and would require an employer to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees who were put at a disadvantage. 

Facts

The Claimant ("C") was employed as an analyst at the respondent company; typically working hours of 9am to 9pm. He was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in July 2012 and was off work for several weeks. On his return to work he continued to suffer from symptoms related to the accident, including difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizziness and headaches. 

C gradually increased his hours from approximately 8am to 7pm, but began to come under pressure from one of the owners of the company to work later hours.  C objected in an email to the owner, who responded with an angry outburst in person. C resigned that day and followed up with an email to HR explaining his reasons and asserting a constructive dismissal. C issued employment tribunal claims for unfair constructive dismissal and disability discrimination. One month after his resignation, C moved to the USA, where his wife had started a new job.

The employment tribunal held that C was disabled for Equality Act 2010 purposes, but that no 'provision, criterion or practice' ("PCP") was shown which put C at a disadvantage compared to a person who was not disabled, and therefore the employer was not under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments. C appealed to the EAT.

Held

The EAT allowed C's appeal, finding that the approach to the PCP issue adopted by the employment tribunal had been too narrow. It held that the employment tribunal should have looked at the reality of the situation more broadly, rather than focussing on the extent of the compulsion on C to work late hours and whether this constituted a 'requirement' (which was how it had been pleaded by C). A mere "expectation" would, in some cases, be sufficient to qualify as a PCP.

Further, the EAT found that the employment tribunal had erred in concluding that the employer's breach of contract had to be the sole reason for the resignation.  The tribunal had placed excessive weight on C's decision to move to the USA (as being a motivating factor behind his resignation) and evidence that C would have withdrawn his resignation, had he been asked.  As a result, the case was remitted to the employment tribunal to reconsider whether the employer was obliged to (and whether it did) make reasonable adjustments in relation to the PCP.

Comment

Whilst this decision does not broaden the law, it does illustrate the approach that tribunals should take when evaluating the existence of a PCP. It also demonstrates that a "workplace culture", including both express and tacit rules, may be considered as a whole where this impacts upon working practices. It serves as a reminder that employers should seek to manage disadvantaged employees sensitively with due regard to all the circumstances.