Constructive dismissal is an important part of employment law that employers should understand and be aware of. Employers should also be well versed in the complications that can arise due to a claim by an employee and understand that they might have to pay compensation if the claim is successful. Read on to discover how to avoid a constructive dismissal case in your company.
What is constructive dismissal?
Constructive dismissal is a situation in which an employee feels that they have no choice but to resign from their job after an employer negatively alters any of their working conditions. It is not the same as unfair dismissal as that occurs when an employee makes a claim against their employer when they have been fired. If an employee takes a constructive dismissal claim to an employment tribunal, they will have to prove that your conduct as an employer forced them to resign. An employee can only make a claim for constructive dismissal if they have been employed by your company for more than two years and they must make the claim within 3 months of their employment ending. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) can offer advice on constructive dismissal claims.
What circumstances can result in constructive dismissal?
If an employee has decided to bring a constructive dismissal case to an employment tribunal, they must be of the opinion that their employment contract has been severely breached. This breach of contract can happen in many ways.
First and foremost, you cannot ask an employee to change their core working hours or request they work longer hours without giving them notice and giving them the chance to agree. If they disagree, they must notify you in writing and then can continue working for you ‘under protest.’ Whilst they are working under protest, they may feel that they have no choice but to resign, so this would become a constructive dismissal case.
Secondly, you also cannot change their pay or benefits without consultation and notice. Furthermore, you must also ensure that the working environment you provide for your employees is safe and secure under UK Health and Safety laws. If an employee feels it has become so unsafe that they cannot carry on working, this could contribute to and argument for constructive dismissal.
As an employer, you must also make sure that the working environment is free from any bullying and harassment and all allegations need to be taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly.
Finally, if an employee decides to resign due to being falsely accused of something (such as theft) by their employer, this could result in a claim for constructive dismissal. You can contact Employment Law Friend or a similar firm for help and advice in any of these circumstances.
How to prevent claims
Ensure that you always follow the correct procedures if making changes to a contract and avoid breaching a contract in any way. If you need to change an employee’s contract, discuss this with the affected employees so they understand the reasons for the changes before they take place. However, if something has gone amiss and the employee ends up wanting to claim constructive dismissal, you could always negotiate a settlement in order to avoid being taken to an employment tribunal.