This week’s case round-up
No half measures
Pipe v Hendrickson Europe Ltd, EAT, 15 April 2003
An employer that took the commercial decision to insist on employees working
full time resulting in the dismissal of a part-time worker was guilty of less
favourable treatment under the Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable
Treatment) Regulations 2000.
Ms Pipe worked for Hendrickson Europe Ltd as an accounting assistant along
with three colleagues. The company initially asked her to reduce her hours to
28.5 per week, but after a few years encouraged her to return to full-time
The company also decided it only needed three full-time accounting
Although Pipe offered to increase her hours to 32.5 per week, the company
insisted it needed full-time workers only and dismissed her. Ms Pipe claimed
unfair dismissal and breach of the Part Time Workers Regulations 2000. She was
successful in her complaints heard by an employment tribunal.
The tribunal found that the reason for dismissal – that is, her less
favourable treatment – was that Pipe was only able to work a 32.5 rather than
The company appealed, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the
Although it was apparent the company had made the commercial decision to
employ only three full-time accounting assistants, in this particular case its
conduct could not be justified.
As a result, Pipe was treated less favourably than the comparable full-time
accounting assistants, in breach of the regulations.
A little knowledge could be a dangerous thing
Croft v Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council, Court of Appeal, 15
Croft was a town clerk at Broad stairs and St Peter’s Town Council but,
unbeknown to her employers, had a history of psychiatric illness for which she
had received drugs and counselling.
In the course of employment she suffered a mental breakdown and, having
received a verbal warning (via letter), did not return to work.
Instead, she brought court proceedings against the council, alleging breach
of contract and negligence on the basis that the council was either aware of
her psychiatric vulnerability or ought reasonably to have been so.
The council denied any such knowledge of her psychiatric situation, claiming
it would not have written to her in the terms it had if it had known of her
The judge, at first instance, found that since two of Croft’s friends (who
were also members of the council) were aware she had undergone counselling, the
council was fixed with appropriate knowledge of her condition and her claim
should therefore succeed.
The council appealed successfully. The Court of Appeal found that even if
the council had been aware that Croft had attended counselling, this did not
necessarily indicate psychiatric vulnerability on her part.
Employers are generally entitled to expect an employee to cope with ordinary
disciplinary matters. Therefore there was no reasonable basis upon which the
judge could have found the council liable for negligence or breach of contract.