Careless words can lead to constructive dismissals

Most employers reading this saga of a disruptive employee would sympathise with the employer. But it is a clear reminder that following procedures is both challenging and necessary.

The employee in question was considered by one line manager to “be disruptive and …upset colleagues on occasions” and, by another manager, “a bit aggressive and abrupt”. A colleague had raised a grievance against her but she claimed her manager was not supportive of her in resolving the grievance.

The Employment Judge commented that it might have been possible to dismiss the employee fairly had a full procedure been followed.

However, the Tribunal concluded that her line manager had been overhead whispering to a colleague that “getting rid of Mel is work in progress”. The latter, the Tribunal decided, amounted to constructive dismissal.

It is easy to imagine some of the managers’ feelings in this case but this was an inappropriate remark for which the company will have paid dearly.

If procedures are followed carefully, and step-wise, then the desired result can usually be achieved without any further pain. I suggest that it is valuable to have someone who is outside the immediate situation help to ensure that happens and to keep emotions in check.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

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