Employment Law Unfair Dismissal Constructive Dismissal Last Straw

Employment Law Unfair Dismissal Constructive Dismissal Last Straw

The case of​ Bell v the​ Spirit Group Ltd [2005] concerned a​ claim for unfair and constructive dismissal. the​ employment tribunal held that a​ series of​ acts,​ by the​ employer,​ cumulatively amounted to​ repudiation of​ the​ employee's contract of​ employment.

The employee was a​ manager of​ a​ national chain of​ pubs and restaurants. He brought a​ complaint of​ unfair constructive dismissal against his employer in​ the​ employment tribunal on​ the​ grounds of​ failure to​ support him throughout a​ period of​ a​ year during his career. He alleged that:

he had been harassed by the​ senior managers regarding changes to​ his and his wife's single contracts to​ a​ lower-paid joint contract;
he had been bullied and his grievance initially ignored;
his grievance had been partially upheld but the​ bullying had continued;
the employer's conduct amounted to​ a​ fundamental breach of​ his contract of​ employment - the​ implied term of​ mutual trust and confidence (the cause of​ his resignation);
his dismissal had been unfair in​ all the​ circumstances.
The tribunal found that,​ in​ view of​ the​ cumulative effect of​ the​ course of​ conduct by the​ employer,​ there had been a​ fundamental breach of​ the​ implied term of​ mutual trust and confidence in​ the​ employee's contract of​ employment,​ and it​ was that breach that had been the​ effective cause of​ the​ employee's resignation. the​ employee's claim of​ unfair constructive dismissal was upheld. the​ employer appealed to​ the​ Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) against that decision. the​ employer's appeal was dismissed.

The EAT found that:-

the test for constructive dismissal was whether the​ employer's conduct amounted to​ a​ repudiatory breach of​ the​ employee's contract of​ employment in​ relation to​ the​ implied term of​ mutual trust and confidence;
a relatively minor act might be sufficient to​ entitle the​ employee to​ resign if​ it​ was the​ last straw in​ a​ series of​ incidents;
in this case,​ nothing had been done to​ stop the​ chain of​ causation;
the employee had continually complained about the​ lack of​ support,​ and the​ tribunal could not be criticised as​ a​ result of​ its conclusions.
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© RT COOPERS,​ 2005. This Briefing Note does not provide a​ comprehensive or​ complete statement of​ the​ law relating to​ the​ issues discussed nor does it​ constitute legal advice. it​ is​ intended only to​ highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in​ relation to​ particular circumstances.

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