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Police Station representative succeeds with constructive dismissal claim after law firm removed on-call phone

View profile for Martin Cornforth
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In the recent case of C R O’Neill v The Richmond Partnership: 2501671/2023 the Claimant raised an informal grievance, alleging bullying by her line manager, who practiced criminal law.

Although the Employment Tribunal found that the Claimant's line manager was not a bully, they did find that she was unaware of the impact her bad moods had on staff. The Tribunal found that the line manager commented in front of staff that she no longer wished to do criminal work. The Tribunal found that this caused the Claimant to feel anxious about her job security. However, the Tribunal decided that this comment by itself would not justify resignation because it was unlikely to seriously damage trust and confidence.

When the Claimant complained about her line manager's conduct, she did not receive any response for 2 weeks. Again, although the Tribunal found that this dented the employment relationship, they did not take the view that it justified resignation by itself.

Two weeks after the Claimant's informal complaint one of the partners removed the on-call phone from the Claimant without providing an explanation. The removal of the on-call phone implied that the Claimant would no longer be working on-call, which would have a significant financial impact on her. The Claimant became upset and the partner returned to the office around 20 minutes later. This time he explained that the phone was to be held by the Claimant's line manager to monitor overheads.

In the context of the Claimant's informal complaint the Tribunal decided that the removal of the on-call phone was not genuinely to monitor overheads but was rather to send a message to the Claimant that her line manager was in control. The Tribunal found that the removal of the phone seriously damaged trust and confidence by itself. However, when the comments about wanting to cease practicing criminal law, and the delay in responding to the Claimant's complaint were taken into consideration there was also a cumulative breach of trust and confidence. As such the Claimant was entitled to resign and her constructive dismissal claim succeeded.

After the Claimant's resignation the employer did treat her complaint on resigning as a formal grievance. However, no investigation was undertaken in breach of the ACAS Code. As such the Tribunal decided to apply an uplift of 15% to any compensation awarded.

This case is a useful reminder that it's crucial to deal with staff complaints in an appropriate manner to avoid a constructive dismissal claim. If the employer in this case had responded quickly and not jeopardised the relationship by removing the phone they may well have avoided a legal dispute. Likewise, if consultation about the removal of the phone had taken place first it is far less likely that the case would have ended up in a Tribunal. Our team of experienced employment lawyers can assist in dealing with staff complaints form the outset to avoid the risk of a constructive dismissal claim.  


If you are an employer, or employee who needs guidance on any of the above matters, we are here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Law Team on 01522 814638, or make an enquiry here.