Remedies in UK employment law are generally limited to actual financial losses. There are however some occasions when losses may extend beyond the purely financial, for example where injury to feelings awards are made in discrimination and whistleblowing claims. The recent case of Grange v Abellio has extended compensation for a failure to provide rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations (WTR) to damages for personal injury, potentially exposing employers to significant sums.
Mr Grange suffered from a bowel condition that was exacerbated by Abellio’s failure to provide adequate daily rest breaks (of at least 20 minutes in every 6 hours). Abellio had sought to argue that they had not refused him rest breaks, as he had not requested them. The Tribunal found that the denial of this right could take place in the way the an employer arranges the working day – not necessarily as an active response to a request.
The Tribunal found that as this failure caused Mr Grange more than minor discomfort because of his bowel condition, he was entitled to compensation for personal injury as part of his damages. Whilst in this case he was awarded £750, if the physical consequences had been more serious, this figure could have been far greater. The Tribunal is deemed capable of dealing with at least modest personal injury claims in such circumstances without too much formality.
The WTR are underpinned by the EU Working Time Directive and are designed to protect employee health and safety, so this decision sits well with that principle. Employers must not only provide for rest breaks, but ensure that working arrangements do not, in reality, prevent those rest breaks being taken. The Tribunal has made it clear that an employee should not have to ask to take a rest break.