Employment Law Unfair Dismissal Constructive Dismissal

Employment Law Unfair Dismissal Constructive Dismissal

The case of​ Thornley v Land Securities Trillium Ltd [2005] concerned a​ claim for unfair and constructive dismissal by an​ employee who alleged that her employer imposed a​ new job description on​ her and she contended that her contract of​ employment was fundamentally breached by such changes to​ her duties imposed by her employer. the​ Tribunal upheld this claim.

The employee was originally employed by the​ BBC as​ an​ architect in​ its construction management department. On or​ around 12 November 2001,​ a​ substantial part of​ the​ construction department was transferred to​ the​ appellant employer,​ Thornley,​ under the​ Transfer of​ Undertakings (Protection of​ Employment) Regulations 1982.

Following this transfer,​ the​ employer announced its plans to​ restructure the​ department. This meant that the​ employee's role would have changed to​ that of​ a​ managerial role from the​ hands-on architectural work she had previously done. On or​ around 1 October 2002,​ the​ employee attended a​ meeting where she indicated that she believed her position was being made redundant. She wrote to​ the​ employer stating that as​ a​ result of​ the​ proposed restructuring,​ her professional expertise was being dissipated and she was becoming de-skilled as​ an​ architect. She also stated that her position was being made redundant. On or​ around 8 December,​ she again wrote to​ her employer raising a​ grievance in​ respect of​ the​ new role,​ which she claimed was not comparable with the​ job specification of​ the​ role she had when she was transferred to​ the​ employer.

She brought a​ grievance hearing and following this hearing on​ 28 January 2003,​ the​ employee was informed that her position was not redundant. On 13 February,​ she resigned on​ the​ grounds of​ constructive dismissal. the​ employee then made an​ employment tribunal claim where she claimed constructive dismissal. the​ tribunal found that the​ effective cause of​ the​ employee's resignation had been the​ imposition of​ the​ new job description,​ which fundamentally breached the​ terms of​ her contract,​ with the​ result that the​ employee was entitled to​ resign and to​ be treated as​ having been dismissed. the​ tribunal therefore upheld her claim. the​ employer appealed to​ the​ Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The employer in​ its appeal contended that the​ tribunal had misconstrued the​ employee's contract of​ employment:
The tribunal's decision was perverse;
The issues for the​ determination by the​ EAT were whether the​ tribunal had erred in​ arriving at​ its conclusion with regard to:
the extent of​ the​ employee's duties under her contract;
the extent to​ which those duties were to​ be changed;
whether the​ employer had been entitled to​ change her duties; and
if not,​ whether the​ employer's breach of​ contract was a​ fundamental breach entitling her to​ resign.
The EAT dismissed the​ appeal and held that in​ the​ circumstances:

the tribunal was entitled to​ conclude that the​ changes to​ the​ employee's duties under her contract of​ employment were a​ fundamental breach of​ her contract;
the tribunal did not err in​ its construction of​ the​ employee's contract or​ in​ concluding that by the​ changes proposed to​ her duties,​ the​ employer had intended not to​ be bound by her contract;
the tribunal's decision that the​ employee was entitled to​ resign on​ the​ basis of​ constructive dismissal was correct;
no error could be detected in​ the​ way in​ which the​ tribunal identified the​ employee's express duties under her contract of​ employment;
the tribunal's conclusions on​ the​ evidence that there were significant changes to​ her duties,​ which would have had the​ effect of​ deskilling her as​ an​ architect,​ were unimpeachable; and
the employee's contract,​ read as​ a​ whole,​ did not permit the​ employer to​ change the​ employee's duties to​ the​ extent and nature it​ had proposed.
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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.

Employment Law Unfair Dismissal Constructive Dismissal

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