Case update – claimant entitled to recover awards for “personal injury” where denied rest breaks
Mr L Grange v Abellio London Limited (UKEAT/0304/17/JOJ)
From September 2009 Mr Grange had been employed by Abellio London Limited firstly as a bus driver and then, from June 2011, as a relief roadside controller. Mr Grange had a medical condition, which Abellio were aware of, that required him to take regular rest breaks. In November 2014 Mr Grange brought a claim against Abellio regarding their alleged breach of the rest break provisions contained within the Working Time Regulation 1998 (WTR) throughout various parts of his employment. The claim was dismissed due to the absence of a deliberate act of refusal by Abellio.
Mr Grange appealed the decision and the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that Abellio’s refusal did not have to “amount to an active response to a positive request but could simply be the denial of the right through the arrangement of the working day”.
On remitting the claim back to the Tribunal to consider remedy, the Tribunal established Mr Grange had not suffered any financial loss. The Tribunal acknowledged that Abellio was aware of Mr Grange’s need to take regular breaks and concluded that ”compelling him to work to the agreed working pattern without adjustments was unreasonable”. The Tribunal determined that some compensation was due in this case as Mr Grange had suffered more than a minor inconvenience. It made a just and equitable award of £750 for personal injury.
The case returned to the EAT for a second time to consider further appeals, including in respect of the Tribunal’s award of damages. The EAT determined that Tribunals are permitted to award damages for personal injury in accordance with section 30(4) of the WTR.
The EAT also rejected Abellio’s alternative cross-appeal argument that the award of £750 for personal injury was excessive and made without rigorous assessment. The EAT determined that excessive formality was not required and that Tribunals should be “empowered to deal with low value cases on a common-sense basis, without the need for medical evidence” (Hampshire County Council v Wyatt).
In light of the EAT’s decision in this case, employers should be wary of their possible liability to pay damages for personal injury if they deny workers rest breaks (even if their denial is not express) and a worker can successfully prove they have suffered something more than a minor inconvenience as a result. The case also highlights that, for low value awards, medical evidence may not be required as a Tribunal will be entitled to make a common sense award in such circumstances.