Constructive dismissal arises when you terminate your contract of employment, with or without prior notice, due to the conduct of your employer. Your employer's conduct must have been such that it would have been reasonable for you to terminate your contract without giving notice. For an example of what is considered reasonable, see the case study: claiming constructive dismissal.
If you are dismissed you can, under certain conditions, bring a claim for unfair dismissal against your employer. If you do this and your employer accepts that there was a dismissal, your employer must show that there were fair grounds for the dismissal. Generally a dismissal is presumed to be unfair unless your employer can show substantial grounds to justify it.
However, if you terminate your employment and you claim constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2015 you must prove that your resignation was justified.
If you are found to have been unfairly dismissed you may be placed back in
your job or more commonly, you will receive compensation for the loss of
earnings caused by the dismissal.
In general, you must have 12 months' continuous service with your employer to bring a claim for unfair dismissal. However, in certain cases the 12 months' service is not a requirement.
If you want to make a claim you should do so within 6 months of when your employment was terminated. This time limit may be extended to 12 months in cases where exceptional circumstances prevented you from lodging a claim within 6 months.
You are entitled to regard your contract as terminated if:
- Your employer's conduct amounts to an actual breach of the contract of employment or, although it falls short of such a breach, is serious enough to warrant your resignation
- Your employer's conduct shows that they no longer intend to be bound by one or more of the essential terms of the contract
- Your employer has acted unreasonably
Conduct by fellow employees that goes unchecked by your employer can also be taken into account in relation to constructive dismissal.
You should also note the following points:
- In a constructive dismissal situation it is up to you to prove that your resignation was justified
- You should use any complaints or grievance procedure that is available to you before resigning
- You should consider using any outside industrial relations procedures available to you before resigning
- You should look for detailed advice before leaving as this is a complex area of law
- You should only resign as a last resort after having used all available means to resolve the problem
How to apply
If you qualify under the unfair dismissals legislation, you can bring your claim to the Workplace Relations Commission. You make a claim by completing the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. Complaints will be referred to an adjudication officer for hearing.
All decisions of an adjudication officer can be appealed to the Labour Court.
For more information about your employment rights contact the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.
Where to apply