Upheld grievance leads to constructive dismissal

An accounts assistant who was led to the middle of an open plan office and “berated” in front of his colleagues for several minutes was constructively unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has ruled. The Judge found that the employee was subjected to “significant incidents of bullying” from management during his employment which was likely to “destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence”

The employee had worked for the London insurance underwriting firm for four years with no formal issues before the bullying incident. His manager described his performance as “good” in 2017 and 2018. However, at the end of August 2017 a member of the team went on long-term sick leave and the employee had to undertake additional work he was inexperienced dealing with. Another colleague left in 2018, which again saw the employee undertake work he was not experienced in. Two members of the finance team told the tribunal they believed he “had not been given the appropriate training or guidance”.

In February 2019, the employee was “berated” by his manager in front of his colleagues about errors on a financial statement. This was not the first time he had been subjected to this behaviour and the “continuous ridicule” left him in a “vulnerable position” which caused him to feel stress and resulted in him making more errors.

He raised a grievance and was upheld by his employers, and in April 2019 his line manager was changed, but the employee was signed off work with anxiety and stress and on his return felt that he was being treated differently by several colleagues and a senior manager.

The atmosphere did not improve and ultimately, the employee felt that he had no choice but to resign as a result of the perceptible change in attitude towards him after he raised the grievance.

The Judge ruled that “coldness” from senior management contributed to his view that his employer “was not happy with him following his grievance, and it contributed to his view that the respondent no longer wanted him to work for them”, and as such his claim of constructive unfair dismissal was well founded. The Judge also concluded that the employee was subjected to bullying as no steps were taken by the employer to check his wellbeing after “significant incidents of bullying towards him”.

Even if a grievance is upheld, it is vital that employers treat the employee raising the issue with respect at all times. The way in which this employee was treated AFTER raising the grievance was the key factor in the finding of this tribunal.

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