In the case of Mark Hone v Six Continents Retail Limited (2005), a pub landlord having collapsed due to overwork successfully sued his former employers in the County Court for breach of duty of care.
Mr Hone, the claimant, started working for Bass (now Six Continents) as a pub manager in 1995 and in 1998 was awarded “Pub Manager of the Year”. However, in 1999 he started working at The Old Moat House where he found himself working 13 hour days.
He repeatedly complained to his employers that he was overworked but the employers took no action. He had no assistant manager and other staff members, who left, including two chefs and an administrative worker, were never replaced.
Mr Hone, who had refused to sign a clause opting out of EU legislation that limits the number of hours an employee works, began suffering from headaches and insomnia. In May 2000, he collapsed at work suffering from an anxiety disorder. In 2004, Mr Hone sued Bass for breaching the duty of care owed to him as an employee.
The first instance court ( Swansea County Court ) held that:
Bass had not taken reasonable steps to ensure that Mr Hone did not work over 48 hours, which was likely to cause injury to his health, and that resources were available to employ more support staff for him; and
Bass should pay Mr Hone £21,000 in damages.
Six Continents (formerly Bass) appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal who upheld the Swansea County Court’s judgment.
Comment: This case highlights the importance of not imposing excessive working hours on employees and ensuring that employees have sufficient staff support.