The Court of Appeal has held that compensation for injury to feelings is not available where there has been a failure to provide rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations 1998.

The facts

Higher Level Care Ltd, Ms Gomes’s former employer, provides accommodation and support for vulnerable young people. After she had left her employment with Higher Level Care, Ms Gomes brought a claim in the tribunal seeking compensation for, among other things, failure to allow her to take the 20 minutes rest breaks which are required by the Working Time Regulations. Ms Gomes alleged that this had damaged her health and wellbeing. The tribunal upheld this claim.

The parties agreed that Ms Gomes should be compensated for pecuniary loss of £1,220. However, they disagreed about whether she was also entitled to recover compensation for injury to feelings. The tribunal judge held that she should not be compensated for injury to feelings. Ms Gomes appealed to the EAT, and her appeal was dismissed. Ms Gomes then appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the tribunal had the power under domestic law to award compensation for injury to feelings for a breach of the entitlement to a rest break. She also argued that, if domestic law did not allow for compensation for injury to feelings, it should be interpreted in a way that would permit the tribunal to make the award because of obligations under EU law.

The Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal. It held that there was no power in domestic law to award compensation for injury to feelings for a failure to provide rest breaks under the Working Time Regulations, nor did EU legislation require such an interpretation.

Vivian Santos Gomes v Higher Level Care Limited

What does this mean for employers?

This case is useful clarification for employers. However, employers should note that in the Mansell case (on which we reported here), the EAT held that injury to feelings could be awarded for working time detriment claims, which are brought under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Ms Gomes’s claim was not a detriment claim, and was brought under the Working Time Regulations.