Is an expectation to work long hours discriminatory?

  • Insight

02 July 2018

United First Partners Research v Carreras

The Court of Appeal has considered whether an expectation to work long hours could amount to a failure to make reasonable adjustments.

What was the background?

The employee returned to work shortly after a cycling accident but continued to experience physical difficulties. As a result, he could not return to work on the same hours as before. In the first 6 months following his return, he typically worked 8 hours a day but after that he was put under pressure by his employer to work longer hours. When he agreed, an expectation developed that he would continue to do so. He eventually resigned and brought proceedings against his employer for disability discrimination by requiring him to work unsuitable hours.

What was decided?

The Court of Appeal decided that an expectation to work long hours could amount to a requirement. The Court held that the term “requirement” does not necessarily mean there has been some form of coercion. The Tribunal had therefore been wrong to reject the claim on the basis that the term was equivalent to “coerced”. The allegation was not that the employee had been explicitly ordered to work late. Rather, it was made clear by a pattern of repeated requests that he was expected to do so. The employee felt under pressure to work late because of an expectation that he would. The Court of Appeal said that a relatively broad interpretation of the law should be applied by tribunals. Employers should consider whether they are encouraging a workplace culture that might result in claims. Employers cannot always avoid a claim by simply saying that the employee didn’t have to do something if that something was clearly expected of them. 

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