When people find themselves in work situations that they feel are unbearable, often they will resign from their post. What most people don’t realise however, is that in some cases you may be able to prove that your employer’s conduct forced you to resign, so that you were effectively fired – this is Constructive Dismissal.
The main reason people may want to look to prove Constructive Dismissal is so that they may then consider making a claim for either unfair or wrongful dismissal against their employer.
If you’re thinking about trying to prove Constructive Dismissal but have not yet left your job, you should think extremely carefully about resigning. You need to prove that your employer’s behaviour constitutes a breach of contract. Although there are many things that may constitute and count towards a breach of contract in your employer’s behaviour, it can be very difficult to prove Constructive Dismissal.
Before making any rash decisions, it’s best where possible to seek legal advice. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau may be able to give you a better idea whether your case may constitute Constructive Dismissal or not.
It’s always best of you can try to go through the channels of communication within the organisation first before you think about resigning. If you find it hard to speak to your manager, try taking it to your company’s Human Resources department and grievance procedure. If you’re a member of a trade union, consult your representative for advice and support, and see if they can intervene in any way. Organisations such as ACAS can also help to mediate the situation between you and your employer.
Under UK law, an employer is required not to behave in a way that destroys the relationship of ‘trust’ and ‘confidence’ between them and their employees. This is where the notion of Constructive Dismissal comes from, and there are many things that an employer may do that will indeed destroy this relationship.
In some cases, the employer will have done one serious thing to this effect, but it is far more common that an accumulation of things have made you feel your position is untenable.
There are many different examples of employer conduct that have helped people to prove Constructive Dismissal.
Some of the more obvious examples of employer misconduct will naturally be harassment, bullying or victimisation. This can include being humiliated in front of other employees, being falsely accused of ineptitude, sexual advances, verbal abuse etc. Also, a failure to respond to complaints that you have made may constitute this.
Another obvious example will be where an employer has failed to pay your wages, or otherwise failed to abide by the terms and conditions of your employment contract. This may include such behaviour as refusing to allow you to take holidays, or drastically changing your hours of work.
An employer’s failure to comply with health and safety requirements, i.e. one that has not provided you a safe place to work, may also be considered to have forced you to resign.
Sudden changes in your pay, job title or the work that you are required to do without first discussing it with you is another cause. This applies to cases of sudden demotion, where you have been moved to a more junior post without the employer first bringing any issues to you about your performance. Another example of this type of misconduct is if the employer suddenly changes your place of work, forcing you to work at a different location.
A more subtle type of misconduct might be where the employer has failed to support managers through difficult periods within the organisation, perhaps through periods of change or upheaval.
In order to prove Constructive Dismissal, you must not have given the employer any indication that you accept the situation. This is particularly relevant when your case depends on such factors as a sudden change in role or pay.
Similarly, if you’re going to be considered for Constructive Dismissal, you must not have continued to stay in the post for a long period after the incidents that you are saying have forced you to resign. This is a tricky one, as you may want to hang on and think carefully before making any decisions about your position, but you must leave relatively soon if you’re going to have a case.
If you do manage to prove Constructive Dismissal, your next step may be to try to prove that you were also wrongfully or unfairly dismissed. In this case, you may be able to make a claim for compensation from your employer.