Long hours and the disabled employee

The Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled job applicants and employees. An organisation can be required by law to make changes to practices and policies, where it is reasonable to do so, if they cause difficulty to a disabled employee.

The case of Carreras v United First Partnership Research highlights how a company culture of working long hours was in fact considered to be a practice which affected a disabled employee.

In this case an employee had worked for brokerage firm for several years, regularly working 12 hour days, before having a bike accident. He took several weeks to recover then returned to work where he continued to have symptoms such as headaches, dizziness and fatigue. In the first six months following his return he worked 8 hour days, before increasing the hours to 11.

The manager requested he work longer hours to which he objected. He was told to leave if he did not like it, which he did. Carreras brought a claim for unfair constructive dismissal and failure to provide reasonable adjustments. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that an expectation to work long hours could amount to discriminatory conduct and also held that a claim for constructive dismissal was well founded.

Although this case could be seen as a positive step in promoting work-life balance. However, it also poses issues for workplaces which may have (often unspoken) expectations of long working hours which employees may silently feel pressured to live up to. It is important for employers to acknowledge the impact this may have on employees who may be more affected by such practices, such as those with disabilities or those with caring responsibilities outside work.

Dominic Bonham