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Hone v Six Continents Retail Ltd, Court of Appeal, 29 June 2005

24 November 2005
The issues

Stress at Work – Psychiatric Injury – Working Time Regulations

The facts

The Claimant was a pub Manager who began working with the Defendant in 1995. On 20th August 1999 he moved to Luton to work as a pub manager at the Moat House there. His workload was excessive and that this caused him to suffer stress and psychiatric injury. He alleged that the psychiatric injury was caused by stress which was attributable to his being required to work excessive hours without adequate support.

He kept records purporting to show in the period from March to May 2000 he was working between 89 and 92 hours per week. The Judge found that there were four employees in key positions who could have deputised for Mr Hone and that had Mr Hone planned the work during this period as he ought to have done he could have created time off for himself. In short, the Judge found that there was no need for him to work the hours that he claimed he worked. He also found that there were no signs from Mr Hone of impending harm to health and that although he did complain of working long hours, these complaints had to be put into the context of his lack of planning of the work and the evidence for which that senior management often heard from licensed house managers that they were working too many hours, not earning enough money, and that they did not have enough staff. It was in short little more than letting off steam.

In April 2000 two of the key employees left and that extra burdens and pressures were placed upon Mr Hone. The matter was brought to the attention of the Operations Manager and he made no mention of the headaches that he was beginning to suffer from but he did tell the Operations Manager that he was working excessive long hours and was tired. The Operations Manager, Mr Reynolds, appears to have accepted that Mr Hone needed help and apart from occasional help and relief he provided none. On this case the Judge found that the meeting in April injury to Mr Hone’s health was attributable to stress at work was reasonably foreseeable.

The Judge also found having regard to the working time regulations that the Claimant relied upon the employer was under a duty to ensure that the Claimant worked no longer than 48 hours per week. The Defendant appealed.

1. The principal’s governing stress at work cases had been in Hatton v Sutherland which guidance had been for practical purposes endorsed completely by the House of Lords in Barber v Somerset County Council.

2. Of the propositions of Lady Justice Hale the seventh was the most relevant to this case namely “to trigger a duty to take steps, the indications of impending harm to health arising from stress at work must be plain enough for any reasonable employer to realise that he should do something about it”.

3. On the facts the Judge was entitled to come to the conclusion that he did on the question of reasonable foreseeability. He had identified factors which he was entitled to conclude was sufficiently plain indications of impending harm to health for a reasonable employer to realise that he should do something about it. All of those matters taken in conjunction with the fact that as was known by the Defendants that working time regulations impose a requirement of no more than 48 hours per week without consent was sufficient to justify the Judge’s conclusions.

The decision

Appeal dismissed.

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