Constructive dismissal is a frequently misunderstood term – but if your employer behaves in a way that means that you feel you have to leave your job, you might be able to claim constructive dismissal.
Constructive dismissal takes place when an employee terminates their employment because the employer’s conduct is such as to make it unbearable for the employee to continue in their employment. This behaviour must be so serious that it can be classed as a breach of contract i.e. behaviour that gives the employee the belief that their employment contract has been terminated.
Constructive dismissal need not relate to one particular event, it can also apply to a string of events. Constructive dismissal claims relate to the employer’s breach of express of implied terms of your employment contract. This could include the advertisement for your job, something laid out in the staff handbook or the terms and conditions written in your contract. It can include breach of implied terms, like an employer’s duty of care towards its employees or duty to act reasonably.
You could claim constructive dismissal if your employer has reduced your wages, amended your job description or your hours and place of work, or ignored a request to improve bad working conditions.
Examples of a severe breach of an implied term amounting to constructive dismissal would include; an employer making it impossible for you to do your job effectively, not giving you the support required to carry out your work without interference or harassment from colleagues, or wrongly accusing you of theft with no evidence to support the accusation.
In order to claim constructive dismissal you must have had one year’s continuous employment. If you have less than one year’s continuous employment, you could still claim constructive dismissal if you are able establish that your employment was terminated for an automatically unfair reason.
You should raise a formal grievance if you are unhappy with how your employer is treating you. Clarify exactly what is making you unhappy. Following the ACAS Code of Practice, your employer should then arrange a formal meeting, without unreasonable delay, to discuss the grievance. Being helpful and reasonable during negotiations with your employer might help resolve the problem. Employment Tribunals are frequently more sympathetic toward employees who have attempted to settle or mediate problems before going to a tribunal.
Experienced employment solicitors appreciate that those employees who find themselves in a situation where they are likely to make a claim for constructive dismissal, are often suffering from anxiety, stress or even depression. You should seek medical advice if you think you may be suffering from any of these conditions andbe sure to let your employer know the reasons for your absence.
Time limits for an Employment Tribunal
You must leave within a reasonable time of the breach – do not delay. You then have a strict 3 month period from the date you left to file an employment tribunal claim. An Employment Tribunal may interpret your delay as having accepted the changes in your contract – the main point about constructive dismissal is that the situation has become such that it is simply impossible to continue your employment.
Although feeling that you have no alternative than to resign, and subsequently doing so, may constitute constructive dismissal you should take legal advice on your individual situation before handing in your notice unless your conditions are entirely intolerable, in which case seek legal advice immediately thereafter. Employment law is complex and it is always important to get specific legal advice from an experienced employment solicitor on employment law problems and constructive dismissal cases in particular.