A cautionary tale for employers who encourage and facilitate a ‘long hours’ culture.

A recent Court of Appeal decision has reminded us that expecting staff to work long hours can lead employers into dangerous waters, especially when disabled employees are involved. 

In United First Research v Carreras the Court of Appeal confirmed that an expectation for a disabled employee to work long hours triggered a requirement to make reasonable adjustments. A disability discrimination claim might arise if such adjustments are not made.

It was held that if there is an assumption or expectation that long hours will be worked, this will amount to a provision, criterion or practice or ‘PCP’ – there is no need for the employer to expressly require the employee to work the hours.

It is, therefore, no defence to say that nobody had told the employee to work the long hours if the culture of the organisation is such that the employee would feel that he/she is under pressure to do so.

The power of a workplace culture, including both spoken and unspoken rules, is not only immense but often intangible – this case highlights yet more potential for workplace culture to give rise to claims, particularly if a requirement to make reasonable adjustments arises and is not addressed.

In an environment with an ‘informal’ expectation for employees to work well beyond contracted hours, a disabled employee who is unable to do so may well have a potential claim.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any issues.