90: Expectation that employee work long hours amounted to PCP for reasonable adjustments claim
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where a disabled employee is placed at a substantial disadvantage compared with a non-disabled employee as a result of a provision, criterion or practice (PCP). In United First Partners Research v Carreras, the Court of Appeal upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s (EAT) ruling that an employer’s expectation that a disabled employee would work long hours amounted to a PCP.
Mr Carreras, a financial analyst for United First Partners Research, typically worked 12 to 14 hour days. Following a bicycle accident, he suffered from serious physical and psychological injuries which meant that the Tribunal subsequently held him to be disabled under the Equality Act. After his accident, Mr Carreras was initially allowed to work from 9am to 6pm. However, over time it became clear that his employer had an expectation that he would return to his long hours. Eventually Mr Carreras informed the company that he objected to working late due to fatigue, but was told that if he did not like it, he could leave. Mr Carreras resigned and brought a claim for failure to make reasonable adjustments, relying on the ‘requirement’ for him to work long hours as the relevant PCP.
The Employment Tribunal rejected this claim because, although there was an ‘expectation’ that Mr Carreras would work long hours, there was no ‘requirement’ for him to do so as he had alleged. However, the EAT and the Court of Appeal held that the Employment Tribunal had adopted too narrow an approach to its interpretation of the term ‘requirement’. It was clear from other parts of Mr Carreras’ claim that he meant he felt under pressure to work late because of an assumption and expectation that he would do so, which amounted to a PCP.
It is well established that a PCP will be construed widely, to include formal and informal practices, policies and arrangements, including one-off decisions and actions. This decision now confirms that an assumption or expectation that employees will work long hours can also amount to a PCP.