Case roundup

This week’s case roundup

Yet another stressclaim…
Young v Post Office, Court of Appeal, Newlaw Online 30.04.02

The facts of the case are strongly reminiscent of the 1995 landmark case of
Walker v Northumberland County Council where, for the first time, an employer
was held to be liable for the nervous breakdown of an employee. When Mr Young
was ready to return to work after a five-month absence due to stress, he was
encouraged to make a gradual return. The reality, however, proved quite
different and within seven weeks, he left his post permanently with
stress-related sickness.

The Court of Appeal agreed that the Post Office had failed to take care of
Mr Young’s health and safety and had been negligent in failing to identify that
most of his periods of absence were due to stress-related illness and so were
reasonably foreseeable. The onus was on the Post Office to adhere to its
original offers of help and its failure to do so resulted in injury.

The Court of Appeal also found that although the Post Office had tried to
place the onus on Mr Young to work at his own pace on his return after months
of absence, he was a vulnerable person who was not in an appropriate position
to make that judgement. Accordingly he was not personally at fault.

The court concluded that it would be a very rare case whereby a weak and
vulnerable employee would have to shoulder responsibility for the fact that his
employer had not kept its promises.

Holiday fund unlawful
MPB Structure Ltd v Munro, Scottish EAT, 28 03 02

MPB’s contract of employment provided that an allowance of 8 per cent would
be paid each week towards holiday pay. However, the appeal tribunal upheld a
decision that such a contract provision was void. Under regulation 13(9)(b) of
the Working Time Regulations 1998 holidays cannot be replaced by a payment in
lieu except where the worker’s employment has been terminated. Furthermore,
under Regulation 35, a contract cannot exclude or limit the effects of the
regulations.

The appeal tribunal confirmed that the aim of the regulations was to ensure
workers take paid holiday. Employees should not be required to save for
holidays. Furthermore, an employee might not have sufficient service in any one
year to have built up sufficient entitlement to be equivalent to a week’s wages
during the holiday period and may then be unable to afford to take holiday.

The only way the provisions of the regulations can be met is for holiday pay
to be paid as and when taken – a contractual provision to the contrary will be
void.

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