United First Partners Research v Carreras (Court of Appeal)
The Court of Appeal has held that an employer's expectation that its employees work long hours may amount to a provision, criterion or practice ("PCP") under UK discrimination legislation, in respect of which it is required to make reasonable adjustments when this arrangement risks putting a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage.
The Claimant had typically worked 14 to 15 hour days in his role at a brokerage firm. On his return to work after a serious bike accident, he continued to suffer from related physical symptoms, such as dizziness, fatigue and headaches, which inhibited his ability to concentrate and ultimately return to his customary working pattern. Nevertheless, he soon came under pressure from senior management to do so. When the Claimant objected to this expectation, he was reprimanded in front of colleagues. He resigned in response and initiated claims for unfair constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.
On the latter point, the ET accepted that he was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 ("EqA"), but did not consider that a mere expectation to work long hours would constitute a PCP in respect of which reasonable adjustments should be made. The EAT overturned this on appeal: (i) criticising the ET's narrow and rigid approach, which equated a PCP with a strict requirement; and (ii) noting that an expectation may often be interpreted as a requirement in the employment context because of the subordinate nature of the relationship. The CA agreed with the EAT, on broadly similar grounds.
This decision confirms, once again, that workers do not need to show that a workplace practice is a strict requirement in order for it to constitute a PCP under UK discrimination legislation. Employers should adopt a broad approach to this concept, and consult carefully with staff who may suffer from health or disability problems to assess reasonable adjustments that could be made to their working arrangements, whether these are express instructions or perceived expectations.