Constructive dismissal is when an employee is forced to quit their job against their will because of their employer’s conduct. Find out what you can do if you feel that you have to leave your job.
If you require further help on a matter of employment law you can use our solicitor directory to the right of this article to look for legal advice near you.
What is constructive dismissal?
Constructive dismissal is a form of dismissal. If you resign from your job because of your employers behaviour, it may be considered to be constructive dismissal. You would need to show that:
- Your employer has committed a serious breach of contract
- You felt forced to leave because of that breach
- You have not done anything to suggest that you have accepted their breach or a change in employment conditions
Possible examples of constructive dismissal
The reason for leaving your job must be serious – there must be a fundamental breach of your contract. Examples include:
- a serious breach of your contract (eg not paying you or suddenly demoting you for no reason)
- forcing you to accept unreasonable changes to your conditions of employment without your agreement (eg suddenly telling you to work in another town, or making you work night shifts when your contract is only for day work)
- bullying, harassment or violence against you by work colleagues
- making you work in dangerous conditions
Your employer’s breach of contract may be one serious incident or the last in a series of less important incidents that are serious when taken together.
What to do if your employer’s behaviour makes you want to quit
Speak to your manager
Leaving your job should be the last resort. First, speak to your manager and see if you can resolve the problem that way. If the problem is with your manager, you could talk to:
- their manager
- your company’s HR (human resources) department
- an employee representative (eg a trade union official), if you have one
- Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) or another employment advice service
Call the Acas helpline
for free, impartial and confidential advice about all employment issues including constructive dismissals
Grievance procedures and mediation
If speaking to your manager or someone else doesnt work, try to sort out the problem with your employer through your company’s standard grievance procedure. In most cases you will be required to have raised the issue through a grievance procedure before taking legal action.
If this doesn’t work, and your employer agrees to it, you could try mediation through Acas (the LRA in Northern Ireland), where a specialist will try to help you and your employer sort out the problem.
Employment Tribunal claims
If talking to your employer or mediation doesn’t work and you feel you have to quit, you should first get some advice to see if you have a case for unfair or wrongful dismissal following a constructive dismissal. It is often very hard to prove that your employer’s behaviour was so bad as to make you leave.
If you do have a case for constructive dismissal, and you think you can show it was unfair or wrongful, ideally you should then leave your job immediately. Otherwise the employer may argue that, by staying, you have accepted the conduct or treatment.
Also, avoid ‘jumping the gun’ or resigning before the actual breach of contract occurs. Youremployer could then claim there has been no dismissal.
Claiming benefits if you are forced to quit your job
If you leave your job, your Jobcentre Plus (Jobcentre or Jobs and Benefits Office in Northern Ireland) can delay your Jobseeker’s Allowance for up to 26 weeks. Make sure they understand what’s happened and why you had to leave.
If you are taking your case to an Employment Tribunal (Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland), it’s a good idea to give the Jobcentre Plus copies of your completed Tribunal application forms.
If you can’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, you may be able to claim a hardship payment (a reduced amount of Jobseeker’s Allowance).