The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in United First Partners Research v. Carreras  EWCA Civ 323 in which John Mehrzad acted for the successful respondent employee, as instructed by Tamara Ludlow, Partner at Simons Muirhead & Burton LLP. The full decision is here.
Mr. Carreras, who worked as a financial analyst and was a serious triathlete in his spare time, brought claims of disability discrimination by way of a failure to make reasonable adjustments and unfair dismissal against his employer financial brokerage.
As a result of a cycling crash sustained in training, Mr. Carreras suffered severe physical and psychological injuries. Initially, his employer allowed him to work a shorter working day (9am-6pm). However, over time, his employer developed an “expectation” and an “assumption” that Mr. Carreras would return to his long hours (9am-9/11pm), requiring him to choose which days he would work those long hours, rather than if he could work them at all. The employer also failed to pay his contractual bonuses on time, provided incorrect information to his solicitors in relation to a personal injury claim arising from the cycling crash, and reprimanded Mr. Carreras before the entire office on the same day that he challenged working the long hours.
At first instance, the Tribunal rejected the claims on the basis that; first, although he was disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and there was an “expectation” and “assumption” that Mr. Carreras would work long hours, there was no “requirement” that he do so; and, secondly, whilst the employer’s conduct did amount to repudiatory conduct, it was not the reason for Mr. Carreras’ resignation since he thought he might be persuaded to stay and, following his resignation, he then moved to the USA.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (HHJ Eady QC), before which John Mehrzad also appeared, overturned the Tribunal’s decision on both claims. The EAT found that the Tribunal’s approach to the reasonable adjustments claim had been unduly narrow and technical, and the only permissible conclusion based on the findings of fact was that Mr. Carreras had resigned in response to the repudiatory conduct with the reasons given by the Tribunal for rejecting that claim being irrelevant considerations.
The Court of Appeal (Underhill, Bean and Asplin LJJ) has now upheld the EAT’s judgment, confirming that Mr. Carreras has been constructively unfairly dismissed and the Tribunal has been impermissibly narrow as to its approach to a “requirement” to work long hours in terms of the reasonable adjustments claim.
This case is now a leading authority on the long hours working culture within financial services within the context of an employee who is placed at a disadvantage by those hours because of their disability in law. Even if there is no express “requirement” to work those hours, if there is an “assumption” or “expectation” that those hours will be worked, that will be sufficient for a “provision, criterion, or practice” to be established for the purposes of a reasonable adjustments claim.
The Court of Appeal also reiterated that it is strongly preferable for the Tribunal to hear oral closing submissions in complex cases, rather than rely on written closing submissions alone.