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Employment Law: Expectation to work long hours

As an employer you may require your employees to work longer hours from time to time to meet business needs. If you have a disabled employee who cannot work these hours, you may have to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and allow the employee to work a shorter shift. However, do you still have that duty if there is no contractual requirement to work the longer hours and only an expectation that the employee does so?

Mr Carreras worked as an analyst for a brokerage and research firm, United First Partners Research. He initially worked very long hours from around 8am to 11pm to cover the US markets. Unfortunately, Mr Carreras was involved in a severe cycling accident and became disabled as a result. He returned to work but suffered dizziness, fatigue and headaches. He had difficulty concentrating and was unable to work the same hours as before. After about a year Mr Carreras was asked to work later in the evenings and when he agreed, an expectation developed that he would do so. Mr Carreras resigned and claimed constructive dismissal and disability discrimination.

Mr Carreras claimed that his employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for him in respect of his disability in requiring him to work the unsuitable hours. The company argued that there had been no requirement for Mr Carreras to work the long hours and so no duty to make reasonable adjustments arose.

The Court of Appeal ruled that there was a requirement to work the long hours. It didn’t matter that Mr Carreras had not been coerced or forced to work them. A strong form of request or a repeated pattern of requests could amount to a requirement which Mr Carreras felt under pressure to accept. His employer had a duty to consider reasonable adjustments as a result.

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