A college student on a zero-hours contract has been awarded more than £4,000 in unpaid wages, despite taking up a new full-time job midway through a nine-month suspension from her zero hours’ role.

The EAT ruled that Obi’s contract with restaurant Rice Shack allowed her to seek other employment.

The company could also not be certain that she would have turned down shifts after she started her new role because it offered her no work for almost another four months, the EAT said.

Demitchie Obi began working for Rice Shack’s Manchester branch in December 2015, on a zero-hours contract.

She typically worked 15 and a half hours a week, earning approximately £102.50 each week.

In March 2016, Obi was suspended pending a disciplinary investigation following an altercation at work.

Although attempts were made to set up a disciplinary hearing, nothing ever happened.

In May 2016, Obi submitted a written grievance, including complaints that she had been suspended without pay.

A grievance hearing was held in early June but she received no response.

Obi took on a full-time role with a call centre company on 22 August.

Obi had lodged an employment tribunal claim for unauthorised deductions from wages in July 2016 and, in September, was asked to produce a schedule of her losses along with details of her attempts to mitigate her losses.

Obi didn’t provide details of her new employment, despite her call centre role paying more than her Rice Shack job.

Rice Shack became aware of her new job around January 2017 and the full tribunal hearing went ahead in February.

Rice Shack accepted that it needed to pay Obi her average wages for the time suspended however argued that it only needed to do so until she took up her new role in August.

The Manchester Employment Tribunal disagreed, finding that Obi should be paid her average wages for the full nine-month suspension period, which came to £4,087.

The EAT upheld the tribunal’s decision, finding that it just wasn’t possible to argue a breach of contract because of finding another job whilst on a zero hours’ contract.