Imagine the following situation.
Mary has worked for a small family retail business in Moray for 7 years.
She has a volatile relationship with her employers. The owners of the business are a married couple and Mary’s line manager is the wife.
Mary has had frequent disputes with her boss, who makes unreasonable demands on her. She has handed in her notice more than once in the past. However, she has been persuaded to go back to work each time.
Finally, Mary raises a formal grievance about the unacceptable treatment she is receiving.
Mary takes a colleague to the grievance meeting. She has with her a sheet of paper on which she has written the various points she wants to make.
The employers’ representative at the meeting is the husband of the woman about whom she is complaining.
How does it go?
It is an unsatisfactory meeting. Mary is frequently interrupted. No attempt is made to hear her grievances in full. She gets nowhere near the end of her list.
At the end of the meeting, on impulse, Mary hands in her notice.
She doesn’t wait to see what is the outcome of her grievance. She doesn’t consider the possibility that she could appeal the decision if she is not happy with it.
After a couple of days she wonders if she has done the right thing but she feels that her employer’s unreasonable conduct left her with no option but to resign. In Mary’s mind, it was a constructive unfair dismissal and that’s what she’ll tell the Employment Law solicitor she consults about it.
The big mistake
Many people seem to think that it will be a straightforward matter to raise an Employment Tribunal claim against their employer where they’ve been treated “unfairly” and resigned as a result.
Unfortunately, the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees has hurt employees more than employers.
We find that in many cases where, prior to the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees, the former employee would probably have gone ahead with a claim to the Employment Tribunal, the fact that there are now significant fees to pay to the tribunal is putting people off that course.
This is supported by the fact that the number of Employment Tribunal claims submitted since the introduction of fees has reduced by over 70%.
In a much greater number of cases than before, if you are having problems with your employer, it is going to be in your best interests to stay in your job and negotiate with your employer rather than choosing to resign with a view to raising an Employment Tribunal claim.
This is particularly the case with the introduction of “protected conversations” in July 2013. The new legislation allows either the employee or the employer to instigate a discussion about reaching a Settlement Agreement to bring the employment relationship to an end and without the fear that the discussions could be relied on in an unfair dismissal claim if one were to follow. There are of course limitations to the “protected conversations” rule and legal advice should be sought before approaching either party in this regard.
In the past, resigning and then threatening an Employment Tribunal claim could often result in the employer being willing to negotiate a settlement.
However, we are finding that the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees is making employers much more bullish and likely to say: “We’re not interested in negotiating with you; if you think your claim against us is that strong, you can raise a Tribunal claim.”
As we have seen, this puts all the pressure on you, as the employee, in having to make the difficult decision whether or not to run the risk and incur the cost of an Employment Tribunal claim.
People often consult an employment solicitor having already resigned from their job. This generally reduces the available options which the solicitor can advise about. Sometimes the practical options become very limited where you have already resigned before seeking advice.
If you have an Employment Law problem at work, it is much better – for you and for us – if get advice before taking any drastic self-help action, such as resigning.
If you do that, we can then advise you on the best strategy from the full range of possible options.
How we can help
All initial enquiries are free of charge and without obligation. If we are not able to help you ourselves, we may well be able to refer you on to someone who can help you.