In Miles v Linkage Community Trust Limited, the EAT has reminded us that compensation under the Working Time Regulations 1998 ("WTR") is not designed to be punitive. Even where there has been a breach, the tribunal is entitled to award nothing.
Mr Miles brought a claim against his employer, Linkage Community Trust ("Linkage") for breach of the WTR. He was required to work long shifts and did not always get a break of at least 11 hours (as is required under the WTR). The tribunal held that there had been a breach of the WTR but awarded no compensation to Mr Miles.
Under the WTR the amount of compensation is to be assessed in accordance with what the tribunal considers just and equitable having regard to the employer's default in refusing to permit the worker to exercise his right and any loss sustained by the worker connected to the breach. The tribunal held that as Linkage had taken legal advice and acted on that advice there had been no lack of goodwill and they were therefore not a culpable employer. There is no scope to award injury to feelings under the WTR and therefore the tribunal awarded no compensation. Mr Miles appealed on the basis that the tribunal had wrongly added the word "culpable" to the provisions of the WTR and had wrongly considered Linkage's motivation.
The EAT upheld the tribunal decision. The WTR envisages that there can be a breach of the worker's right with no remedy beyond a declaration, which is mandatory. The decision to award compensation is not.
Impact on employers
Breaches of the WTR will not necessarily result in an award of compensation as an employee may not suffer financial loss and there are no provisions to award injury to feelings. Although not designed to punish the employer, the requirements of the WTR should not be ignored. This decision was influenced by the fact that Linkage had taken legal advice and acted on that advice. A tribunal may not exercise its discretion so favourably in relation to a more flippant breach of the WTR.