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Awards for injury to feelings not permitted in WTR cases

BY Paul Deans
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal case has examined the question of whether an employee can be awarded a sum for injury to feelings following a successful claim under the Working Time Regulations. 

In Gomes v Higher Level Care Ltd UKEAT/0017/16, an employee who was not given sufficient rest periods under the WTR argued that her employer’s actions had caused her to suffer ill health. As a result, she should be entitled to compensation for injury to feelings, an award normally reserved to discrimination claims. Miss Gomes’ lawyers argued that the WTR did not preclude an award for injury to feelings and that EU case law suggested that it was appropriate for a breach of working time law.

The EAT held that an award for injury to feelings was not permissible under the WTR and that the law must set out an express statutory basis for any such award. The WTR permit compensation to be awarded for economic loss suffered by the employee, but do not set out any justification for widening an award to other categories of compensation. It held that the employment tribunal had been right to decide at first instance that injury to feelings awards were restricted to discrimination claims in which a person’s identity was under threat.

This case is welcome news for employers facing claims under the WTR. Any widening of the current arrangements for WTR awards would have caused a great deal of uncertainty and placed a disproportionate burden on employers.

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