Disability discrimination: Carreras v United First Partnership Research
Under the Equality Act 2010 an employer is obliged to make reasonable adjustments when there is a provision criterion or practice (PCP) which puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage compared with a non-disabled person.
Mr Carreras was employed as an analyst for a brokerage firm, United First Partnership Research (UFPR). He regularly worked long hours, typically 12 hours a day.
In July 2012, Mr Carreras suffered a serious bike accident and was absent from work for several weeks. When he returned, he continued to suffer with physical symptoms from the accident. After an initial period of working shorter hours following his return to work, Mr Carreras said that he was put under pressure to work late. Initially, requests were made for him to work later, which progressed to an assumption that he would do so. He was concerned that if he did not he might be made redundant or lose his bonus. After a dispute about his working hours, Mr Carreras resigned and brought claims for unfair constructive dismissal and disability discrimination on the grounds that DFPR had failed to make reasonable adjustments.
In relation to the disability discrimination claim, the Employment Tribunal found that there had not been a failure to make reasonable adjustments since the PCP relied on by Mr Carreras, namely the requirement to work long hours, had not been made out in that he was "expected" to work late but his employer had not forced him to do so.
Employment Appeal Tribunal
The EAT allowed Mr Carreras’ appeal. It found that the Employment Tribunal had adopted a too narrow approach to the PCP. The reality of the situation was that Mr Carreras felt obliged to work late. His employer had requested, then expected him to do so. While a requirement might normally be taken to imply some compulsion, an expectation or assumption placed on an employee could amount to a PCP.
Court of Appeal
The Court of Appeal has now upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal’s decision, on largely the same grounds. The Court agreed that the Employment Tribunal had adopted too narrow an approach to its interpretation of the term "required" and was wrong to scrutinize the degree of compulsion to work late. Instead, it should have looked more broadly at the situation as it was clear from Mr Carreras's evidence that he genuinely felt under pressure to work late (because of an expectation and assumption that he would) and this was enough to establish a PCP so as to trigger the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
This case demonstrates the broad nature of the concept of a PCP. Employers should beware of workplace cultures that can make people feel obliged to work in a particular way. In practice, employers can put pressure on employees to conform, even if there is no written rule or direct management instruction.