Although there's no actual dismissal by the employer, the end result is the same as if the employee had been sacked.
It is sometimes also called constructive discharge.
An employee can lodge a legal claim against an employer if he or she feels they have been forced to resign.
It's often difficult to prove that the employer's behaviour forced the resignation so having witnesses or other tangible evidence to back up the claim is necessary.
It is important to get specialist legal advice before actually quitting the job so that the best way to proceed can be advised.
This is because the employee must prove that the employer was acting unlawfully.
In effect the employer's actions must be proved to be a breach of contract.
If the employer has seriously breached the contract of employment, an Employment Tribunal may find that constructive dismissal has taken place.
The Tribunal will examine whether there is clear evidence of a serious breach.
A serious breach could involve an employer's behaviour 'making life hell', leaving the employee feeling that there is no choice but to leave.
Another example could be that the employer forces a major, unwanted change in the employee's work situation without prior agreement or consultation.
The breach may involve one major incident or a series of incidents that bring about an unbearable situation for the employee.
Examples of breaches of an employment contract include: • cutting significant benefits or pay without consultation or good reason, • creating new impossible targets, • demotion without reason, • making duties impossible to perform, • unreasonable changes such as a new location, longer working hours, or greater responsibilities, • failing to take action against serious bullying, and • physically dangerous working conditions.
An employee should try to resolve any problem with his or her employer or, if a resolution cannot be reached, lodge a formal grievance.
The employee must make it clear that the new circumstances are unwanted.
The employer will have a credible response if it can be shown that an employee's complaints were taken seriously and that the employer had no choice but to behave as he did.
In such a situation, the employer could reasonably believe that if the employee takes no further action he or she has accepted the new situation.
So, for example, failing to resign within a reasonable period after the breach may be considered an acceptance or waiver of it - this is called 'waiving the breach.
' Because of the complexities in cases of constructive dismissal, employees are strongly advised to seek legal advice before resigning and seeking to claim.