By Aidan Duggan (Solicitor)
Constructive dismissal is a term used to describe situations where an employee resigns from their job due to the actions or behaviour of their employer. It can be a complex area of law, and any employee who believes they have been constructively dismissed should seek legal advice as soon as possible.
As solicitors, we have seen a number of cases where employees have been subjected to unacceptable behavior in the workplace, leading to their resignation. In this article, I will provide an overview of the law relating to constructive dismissal in Ireland, including relevant case law.
The Legal Framework
The law in Ireland regarding constructive dismissal is primarily based on common law and the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2015. Under Irish law, constructive dismissal occurs when an employee terminates their contract of employment because of the conduct of their employer. The conduct must be such that the employee could not reasonably be expected to continue in their employment. The employee must also have resigned promptly, and not have delayed in resigning.
To establish a claim for constructive dismissal, an employee must show that their employer breached their employment contract, either by acting in breach of the express terms of the contract or by breaching an implied term of the contract. This breach must be serious enough to justify the employee’s decision to resign.
There have been a number of cases in Ireland that have dealt with the issue of constructive dismissal. In one such case, Berber v Dunnes Stores, the employee claimed that she had been constructively dismissed after being subjected to bullying and harassment in the workplace. The employer denied the allegations and argued that they had acted reasonably in response to the employee’s complaints. The court found in favour of the employee, stating that the behaviour of the employer had breached the implied term of trust and confidence in the employment contract.
Another notable case is Keegan v Stardust, in which the employee claimed that she had been constructively dismissed after being demoted from her position as a manager. The court found that the employer had breached the implied term of trust and confidence in the employment contract by failing to consult with the employee before making the decision to demote her.
If an employee successfully proves constructive dismissal, they may be entitled to damages, which could include compensation for loss of earnings, loss of future earnings, and loss of statutory rights. The amount of damages awarded will depend on the individual circumstances of the case.
Don’t ”Walk off the pitch”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It is important to note that before an employee can bring a claim for constructive dismissal, they must have exhausted all internal grievance procedures available to them. This means that they must have raised their concerns with their employer and attempted to resolve the situation before resigning. Many employees make the mistake of walking out of their job before using the the employer’s grievance procedures. This may weaken any potential case against your employer, as they will claim they had procedures in place to resolve your complaints, and you failed to avail of them. They may also claim they had no knowledge you had any grievance in the first place!
Workplace grievance procedures are a process by which employees can raise concerns or complaints about their workplace, working conditions, or other issues related to their employment. These procedures are designed to resolve disputes in a fair and timely manner, without the need for legal action. Here are some examples of workplace grievance procedures:
- Informal discussions – Often, employees can raise concerns with their line manager or HR representative in an informal manner. This allows for a conversation to take place, where the issue can be discussed, and potential solutions can be explored.
- Formal grievance procedure – If the issue cannot be resolved through informal discussions, employees may need to follow a formal grievance procedure. This may involve submitting a written complaint to their employer, outlining the nature of their concerns, and what they hope to achieve by raising them.
- Mediation – In some cases, employers may offer mediation as a way of resolving workplace disputes. Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party facilitates a conversation between the parties involved, in the hope of reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution.
- Investigation – Employers may need to carry out an investigation to gather more information about the issue being raised. This may involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, and analyzing any relevant evidence.
- Appeals process – If an employee is not satisfied with the outcome of their grievance, they may have the right to appeal the decision. This allows for an independent review of the issue, and the opportunity to present any additional evidence or arguments.
As solicitors, we are here to provide guidance and support to employees who find themselves in this difficult situation. We will work with you to understand your situation and help you determine the best course of action.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, and should not be relied upon as such.
Aidan Duggan (Solicitor)