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Constructive dismissal

Stephen SimpsonEditor's message: Under unfair dismissal laws, an employee is entitled to resign in response to a fundamental breach of the contract of employment by his or her employer. This means that, although the employer has not dismissed the employee, the termination of the employment contract is treated as a dismissal.

You should be alert to the common breaches of contractual terms, both express and implied, that can lead employees to resign and argue that you have constructively dismissed them. A common example of a fundamental breach of an express term is unilaterally cutting an employee's pay or hours without the contractual power to do so. A breach of the implied term of trust and confidence could occur if you fail to investigate a grievance properly or turn a blind eye to allegations of bullying and harassment.

The best way to minimise the risk of constructive dismissal claims against your organisation is to have procedures that prevent fundamental breaches from occurring in the first place. These include a process for varying employees' terms and conditions; a grievance procedure; and a dignity at work policy. Under these procedures, you should consult properly with employees on significant variations to their terms and conditions; follow a fair and timely procedure when an employee raises a grievance; and fully investigate allegations of bullying and harassment.

Stephen Simpson, principal employment law editor

New and updated

  • Date:
    6 May 2022
    Type:
    Podcasts and webinars

    Webinar: Avoiding unfair constructive dismissal claims

    Max Winthrop guides you through everything you need to know about constructive dismissals and how they can be defended.

  • Date:
    22 April 2022
    Type:
    Law reports

    Mishandled flexible working requests: Case law round-up

    We look at three successful employment tribunal claims brought over the mishandling of flexible working requests. We also examine two Employment Appeal Tribunal decisions on getting agreement from the employee to extend the three-month decision period and the requirement for a single mother to be available to work late shifts.

  • Type:
    How to

    How to protect against claims of constructive dismissal

    Updated to reflect the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal, effective from 6 April 2022.

  • Date:
    16 November 2021
    Type:
    Podcasts and webinars

    Podcast: COVID-19 employment tribunal decisions

    How are employment tribunals approaching claims arising from the coronavirus pandemic? We explore the most important decisions handed down so far this year and discuss their practical implications for HR.

  • Date:
    19 February 2021
    Type:
    Law reports

    Coronavirus: Constructive dismissal after remote working request denied

    In An Operations Coordinator v A Facilities Management Service Provider, the Workplace Relations Commission in Ireland found that a worker was constructively dismissed when she resigned after she raised concerns about safe working and her employer rejected her request to work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Date:
    18 February 2021
    Type:
    Law reports

    Constructive dismissal: Manager's practical joke breached contract

    In Hurley v East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, an employment tribunal held that the employee had been unfairly constructively dismissed and that the line manager's practical joke was, of itself, sufficient to amount to a fundamental breach of contract.

  • Date:
    10 February 2021
    Type:
    Law reports

    No award reduction for covertly recording disciplinary proceedings

    In Grant v Hunter Price International Ltd and another, an employment tribunal refused to reduce the claimant's award of £73,853 for pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal for covertly recording meetings during a discriminatory disciplinary procedure.

  • Date:
    24 March 2020
    Type:
    Law reports

    Constructive dismissal: Public "dressing down" entitled employee to resign

    In MacLean v Menzies Distribution Ltd, an employment tribunal found that the employer's public "dressing-down" of an employee via email entitled the employee to resign and successfully claim constructive dismissal.

  • Date:
    22 November 2019
    Type:
    Commentary and analysis

    Can a constructive dismissal ever be fair?

    Consultant editor Darren Newman considers if an employer can ever be successful in claiming that a constructive dismissal is fair in the light of two recent cases lost by employers.

  • Date:
    19 November 2019
    Type:
    Law reports

    Disciplinary investigations: "Flawed" process led to constructive dismissal

    In Retirement Security Ltd v Wilson, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the employer's "flawed" disciplinary investigation entitled the claimant to resign and successfully claim constructive dismissal.