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Banned from taking breaks – Boots employee wins £7K at tribunal

An employment tribunal has awarded an employee of Boots the Chemist almost £7,000 after learning that she had been banned from taking breaks through the day.

Natalie Williams, who suffers from scoliosis of the spine, has worked for the Holyhead branch for 34 years. She left her employment after being told by a temporary manager that staff could no longer take any breaks during the shifts. Previously, staff took two 15-minute breaks during a shift.

The tribunal was told that the pharmacy brought in a temporary manager to help the struggling store. Amy Wilbur decided to remove the two breaks from the shifts.

Ms Wilbur put up a notice to this effect, stating that if staff wanted their breaks they would need to come in 30 minutes earlier or stay 30 minutes later.

Ms Williams said that having the breaks through the shift helped her to bear the constant pain from her scoliosis. Standing for extended periods of time left her in unbearable pain.

At the employment tribunal in Llangefni Ms Williams told the tribunal that she had been expected to work as a faster speed and this caused her to need two weeks off work due to the stress she found herself placed under. The claimant later took a further two weeks off to attend physiotherapy sessions.

After returning to work after her physiotherapy course Ms Williams was assessed by her manager.

Her manager handed Ms Williams a note after the assessment with the sentence ‘professionalism – research the meaning of this word and start to practice it in your job, (lead by example).’ After receiving the note Ms Williams tendered her resignation.

Ms Williams told the tribunal that she felt she had no choice but to resign in light of the recent experience with Amy Wilbur, and the way she had been treated.

Because Boots had failed to make reasonable adjustments to her working conditions to allow for her disability, the tribunal ruled that Ms Williams had been constructively and unfairly dismissed.

The judge ordered Boots to pay Ms Williams £6,882 in compensation. In closing Judge Davies commented that removing her tea breaks led to Ms Williams working additional hours with no time off and no remuneration. Further, the extra workload affected her ability to manage her pain.

Judge Davies said that to give Ms Williams a manageable workload would have been a reasonable adjustment.

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