A constructive unfair dismissal occurs when an employee resigns from their position in response to a serious breach of contract by their employer. It is not enough to show merely that the employer has behaved unreasonably. There must be a fundamental breach of either an express contractual term, or the implied term of “trust and confidence”.
Mrs C A Hobbs v Avon Care Homes Ltd
In the recent case of Mrs C A Hobbs v Avon Care Homes Ltd, the Claimant Mrs Hobbs resigned from her post as a secretary at a care home on the grounds of her employer’s conduct and claimed that she had been constructively dismissed.
Mrs Hobbs had been assisting the Managing Director, Mrs Bila, and the Regional Manager, Mrs Rea, with some recruitment. The Claimant attended an interview of a candidate to take notes and Mrs Rea undertook the interview. Although the candidate was very good and Mrs Rea was impressed by her, she voiced concerns about how Mrs Bila would react to the Claimant being black because of her prejudices about black people working in the care sector. Subsequently, Mrs Bila did voice that she did not want to employ this candidate because she was black, but the Claimant was instructed to set up a further interview with the candidate.
Mrs Hobbs felt that she could no longer work for Avon Care Homes and did not want to set up the interview knowing that the candidate was not going to be appointed on racially motivated grounds. She left the office later that day and resigned with immediate effect by email the following day.
Mrs Hobbs told the tribunal that she was seriously offended and upset at being asked by her boss to be complicit in discriminatory work practices. Avon Care Homes (the Respondent) argued that Mrs Hobbs resigned prematurely and should have raised a grievance about her concerns.
However, in these circumstances the Employment Tribunal ruled that Mrs Hobbs was reasonable in believing that the situation could not be resolved, especially as her grievance concerned the person at the head of the business. It said:
“Given the serious nature of the unlawful recruitment practices that the claimant was being asked to administer for Mrs Bila she was in no sense under a responsibility to raise a grievance before resigning. The claimant’s continued employment was simply untenable after the attitude adopted by Mrs Bila…..”
Constructive unfair dismissal claims are not always so clear cut but it is clear that no employee should have to put up with direct discrimination in the workplace, whether it relates to them or to others.
How Nelsons can help
Melanie Morton is a specialist Employment Law Solicitor at Nelsons.
For further information or advice in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, please contact Melanie or another member of our expert Employment Law team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.