Injury to feelings for Working Time detriment claim

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue v Mansell (Employment Appeal Tribunal)

Awards for injury to feelings can be made by Tribunals in claims of working time detriment brought under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the EAT has held. Whether awards are made will be a question of fact in each case.

Firefighters brought a complaint for working time detriment against their employers, the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, following the introduction of a new shift system, which involved a breach of the Working Time Regulations in relation to night work and daily rest. The firefighters refused to volunteer for the new shifts and were transferred to other fire stations. They brought proceedings in the ET, claiming that the detriments they had suffered as a result of the move included increased journey times, loss of free time, and interference with care obligations. In addition to financial losses, the firefighters claimed compensation for injury to feelings.

The EAT upheld the ET decision that damages and injury to feelings compensation, were recoverable. As to the latter, it concluded that a complaint of working time detriment was akin to claims of discrimination or victimisation, and in either of those cases injury to feelings was potentially recoverable.

Employers are well aware of the possibility that injury to feelings awards may be made against them in discrimination claims; but the EAT has expanded that opportunity to those who have been subject to a working time detriment. Whilst any decision to award nonpecuniary losses will turn on the case's own facts, this decision creates an added risk factor for employers who are looking to make changes to working time arrangements for its employees.