Constructive dismissal - bullying and harassment

Case ref: 6.4/ May 2005

Summary of case

Our member Ms S was employed in a Civil Service Department. She contended that between November 2002 and January she had suffered from a series of acts of harassment.

She resigned from her post. However, it appears Ms S subsequently made an application to be reinstated to her former position. This was refused by the Department.

Advice requested

The PCS bargaining unit sought advice on constructive dismissal as a result of bullying/harassment.

Key advice provided by Thompsons

The solicitor provided general advice on the question of how the law applies on constructive dismissal claims. However, the solicitor also provided additional advice on the employer's obligations where an individual has resigned and whether or not the employee is entitled to withdraw their resignation. 

In this case Thompsons advised: 

"The general principle, in regards to resignations, as set out in the case of Riordam v War Office, is that an employee who resigns from his/her position will not be entitled to withdraw their resignation.

"Further, in the case of Gale (BG) Ltd v Gilbert the Employment Appeal Tribunal as guidance has set out that where a resignation is ambiguous the Tribunal must put its mind to the circumstances surrounding the resignation, however if the words used to resign are clear the crucial question is whether the employer has taken those words to mean that the employee intended to resign from their position.

"In this case, Ms S's resignation was entirely unambiguous and does appear, from the Department's letter of response, to have been interpreted by them as a resignation. Based on case law, the genuineness of Ms S's resignation therefore is unlikely to be affected by her potential lack of capacity, due to the state in which she was in, as a result of the anxiety and depression from which she suffered at the time of her resignation."

Legal department comment

Hopefully this advice will help officials deal with queries from members who want to know the position when they have sought to withdraw a resignation.

It is clear from Thompsons' comments that if the words used in the resignation are clear and unambiguous employers are in a strong legal position to resist any subsequent legal claims on these matters. 

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