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When is an expectation a practice?

The law

An employer is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments when it operates a ‘provision, criterion or practice’ (“PCP”) that puts a disabled employee at a disadvantage compared to a non-disabled employee.


Mr Carreras was an analyst working in the financial sector. He often worked long hours, as is commonplace with the financial industry.

In 2012, Mr Carreras was involved in a serious accident which left him disabled. On his return to work he experienced headaches, fatigue and found it difficult to concentrate in the evenings as a result of his disability. Following the accident, Mr Carreras initially worked no more than 8 hours per day. However, Mr Carreras’ working hours gradually increased to the point where his employer assumed that he would work late and started to ask which evenings he would be working each week, rather than ask whether he was prepared to do so.

In 2014 Mr Carreras emailed his manager objecting to the late night working. This email resulted in an argument with his manager in front of colleagues and led to Mr Carreras’ resignation.

Mr Carreras brought claims for constructive unfair dismissal and failure to make reasonable adjustments. For the purposes of this article we are focusing on the failure to make reasonable adjustments claim.

Employment Tribunal decision

Mr Carreras argued that the PCP that he was relying on in bringing his claim was the “requirement” that he work late hours. He claimed that if he did not work the long hours he feared that he would be made redundant or lose his bonus. The employer contended that the late night working was voluntary.

The Employment Tribunal (“ET”) held that although there may have been commercial factors which led Mr Carreras to decide to work late and despite the expectation of his employer that he would work late, there was no actual “requirement” for him to do so. Therefore, there was no PCP and associated duty to make adjustments.


The Employment Appeal Tribunal (“EAT”) overturned the Employment Tribunal’s decision. The EAT found that the ET had been overly technical and should have adopted a ‘real world approach’. The EAT accepted that “requirement” was broad enough to cover an expectation or assumption placed on an employee by an employer.

The case was remitted back to the ET to consider the nature and effect of any disadvantage that Mr Carreras suffered as a result of the PCP and whether any reasonable adjustments were made.


Employers may assume that employees are happy to work the extra hours if they are not raising any complaints, however, this case shows that an employer’s assumption can amount to a requirement to work those hours. Under equality law this may be considered a PCP which may disproportionately affect particular groups of the workforce with a protected characteristic. Where an employee is disabled, employers should consider making adjustments. It is advisable that employers ensure that regular meetings take place with employees who have a disability or have returned to work following a long term illness to discuss working hours to minimise the chances of a similar expectation arising.


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