Case law updates

Ignored grievances leads to constructive dismissal ruling

A tribunal has ruled that a former charity CEO who resigned after three distinct breaches of trust and confidence was constructively dismissed. Ms Gillian Smith was unfairly dismissed from her role at Age Concern, who did not seek to discuss her grievances after she outlined her feelings of undermining and humiliation in her resignation letter. This is despite the fact that Smith, who had worked for the company for five years, called an urgent meeting to discuss her future at the time of her resignation.

The Tribunal said Age Concern’s treatment of Smith was in “fundamental breach of contract” in respect of the implied term that an employer would not – without reasonable cause – act in a way which would “likely destroy or seriously damage” the trust and confidence between employer and employee.

The Tribunal found there was a “cumulative breach” from each of the three incidents, the first of which occurred in 2018, where Smith warned two staff members of disciplinary action after witnessing them behave in a way she considered bullying. Smith found out months later the trustees had, unbeknown to her, already dealt with a letter of complaint from the employee involved, leaving her feeling unsupported.

Smith’s second complaint concerned an incident where an employee had allegedly lied about owning a car, which was required if they were to be promoted. The employee complained to the trustees that Smith had lied about the incident, which was dealt with without consulting her.

Finally, Smith, after consulting an external HR consultant, suspended an employee on full pay pending an investigation following hostile behaviour towards her, only for the trustees to reverse the decision a day later in a meeting to which she was not invited, leaving her feeling publicly humiliated.

The tribunal found that Smith was unfairly dismissed and she was awarded £26,578.88 in compensation, including awards for loss of earnings, ongoing future loss and loss of statutory rights.