The Employment Relations Authority has recently dismissed an employee’s personal grievance claim of unjustified constructive dismissal and found that she was not actually forced to resign.

The employee worked as a manager of the employer’s store with very little supervision. She was in charge of two employees and ran the day-to-day business of the store.

The store experienced a decline in sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the employer proposed a restructuring process. The employees received an email about this proposed restructure, seeking advice about the best way forward.

A meeting was held between the employer, the employee and her two workers. The proposed ideas were discussed and feedback was given by the employee. This feedback was later sent in an email to the employer.

One week later, the employer sent an email to the employee stating that due to the restructure, they were disestablishing her position. The employer provided that the employee could take up the new “Team Leader” position and that they were interested in having her remain employed with them.

This was the first time the employee had heard her position may be made redundant. Unhappy with the proposed job description, the employee gathered her belongings and did not return to the workplace. The employee formally resigned the following week.

The Authority had to determine whether the employee had been unjustifiably constructively dismissed. A constructive dismissal may occur where an employer has breached one of their duties and as a result, an employee resigned.

The employee argued that the employer had breached their duty of good faith and as a result she was forced to resign. The Authority had to consider whether first, the employer had breached their duty of good faith and second, whether resignation was reasonably foreseeable from that breach of duty.

The Authority considered that the employer had informed the employee that no changes would be made without discussion. In the email first mentioning the disestablishment of the employee’s role, the employer informed her that they would like her feedback and requested available times for a meeting.

The employee stated that she was shocked to receive the information about disestablishing her position. However, no date for disestablishment had been set and the employer was happy to discuss the proposal with her before action was taken.

The employee did not raise any of her concerns with the employer before she gathered her belongings and left the work place. The Authority decided that this was an indication the employee did not intend to return to work.

The Authority decided that an employee acting in good faith would have taken the opportunity to discuss their concerns with the employer. It was accepted that the employer should have discussed the disestablishment with the employee more personally, rather than over email.

However, the employer was clear about alternative positions and their interest in having the employee remain employed with them. The Authority decided that the employer had not breached their duty of good faith.

The Authority dismissed the employee’s claim of unjustified constructive dismissal.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as an employee or employer. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors