Constructive dismissal

Introduction

Constructive dismissal is where you are forced to leave your job because of your employer’s conduct.

If your employer’s action or inaction makes the situation at work so intolerable for you that you resign (with our without notice), it may be considered a constructive dismissal.

You make a claim for constructive dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act.

To be successful in a constructive dismissal claim, you will have to prove that your resignation was justified. This is different to an unfair dismissal case, where your employer must prove fair grounds to justify the dismissal.

If your claim for constructive dismissal is successful, you may be:

  • Compensated for your loss of earnings caused by the dismissal
  • Placed back in your job under reinstatement
  • Placed back in your job under re-engagement

You can read more about the possible remedies for unfair or constructive dismissal.

The laws on constructive dismissal are set out in the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2015.

Grounds for claiming a constructive dismissal

You can claim your resignation is justified if your employer’s conduct:

  • Is an actual breach of the contract of employment or is serious enough to warrant your resignation
  • Shows that they no longer intend to be bound by one or more of the essential terms of the contract
  • Was unreasonable (see examples below)

Conduct by your colleagues that goes unchecked by your employer can also be taken into account in a constructive dismissal claim.

Examples of constructive dismissal

The reason for leaving your job must be serious. Some examples include:

  • A serious breach of your contract (such as not paying you or demoting you for no reason)
  • Forcing you to accept unreasonable changes to your conditions of employment without your agreement (for example changing your shift pattern)
  • Allowing colleagues to bullying or harass you at work where this behaviour goes unchecked by your employer
  • Making you work in dangerous conditions
  • Making false accusations, such as fraud or misconduct

You can see an example in the case study: claiming constructive dismissal.

Deciding whether to resign

You should only resign as a last resort after using all available means to resolve the problem.

Before you resign

If you feel you are being forced to leave your job because of your employers conduct, you should raise this with your employer as soon as possible. Give your employer an opportunity to discuss the issue and try to resolve it.

Before you resign, you should:

  • Use your company’s complaints or grievance procedure
  • Use any outside industrial relations procedures available to you (for example using a trade union or mediation)
  • Look for detailed advice as this is a complex area of law, it can be difficult to prove constructive dismissal

If you have to resign

If you cannot resolve the issue with your employer and you feel you have no choice but to resign, you may claim you were constructively dismissed.

In general, you must have 12 months' continuous service with your employer to bring a claim for constructive dismissal. However, in certain cases the requirement of 12 month’s service does not apply.

You must bring your claim within 6 months from the date your job ended. This time limit may be extended to 12 months where there are exceptional circumstances that prevented you from lodging a claim within 6 months.

Claiming construtive dismissal

You can bring your claim to the Workplace Relations Commission. You make a claim by completing the online complaint form. Complaints will be referred to an adjudication officer for hearing.

If your claim for constructive dismissal is successful, you may be:

  • Compensated for your loss of earnings caused by the dismissal
  • Placed back in your job under reinstatement
  • Placed back in your job under re-engagement

You can read more about the possible remedies for unfair or constructive dismissal.

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

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
Carlow
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90
Page edited: 2 March 2021