A Comprehensive Guide to Constructive Dismissal

20 November 2023
In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of constructive dismissal, understanding its definition, determining what constitutes it, exploring the grounds for a claim, and uncovering the steps to prove it. If you've ever wondered about your rights as an employee in such a situation, read on to gain valuable insights.
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In the realm of employment law, the term "constructive dismissal" carries significant weight. It refers to a complex legal concept that pertains to situations where an employee feels compelled to resign from their job due to unbearable working conditions. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of constructive dismissal, understanding its definition, determining what constitutes it, exploring the grounds for a claim, and uncovering the steps to prove it. If you've ever wondered about your rights as an employee in such a situation, read on to gain valuable insights.

Defining Constructive Dismissal

Constructive dismissal is a legal concept that arises in employment relationships when an employee feels compelled to resign from their position due to a serious violation or breach of their employment contract by the employer. In contrast to the more common scenario of traditional dismissal, where the employer initiates termination, constructive dismissal places the impetus on the employee to initiate their resignation. 

This occurs when the working conditions or treatment become so unfavourable, intolerable, or fundamentally altered that the employee reasonably believes they have no other choice but to resign in order to protect their rights, well-being, and career prospects.

For a situation to be considered constructive dismissal, several key elements typically need to be present.

What Constitutes Constructive Dismissal?

To establish constructive dismissal, certain conditions must be met. Key factors include:

Fundamental Breach of Contract

The breach of contract must be significant and substantial, going to the heart of the employment relationship. This breach could include changes to job responsibilities, demotion, reduction in pay, harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment.

Hostile Work Environment

If your workplace becomes hostile, unbearable, or discriminatory, to the extent that it significantly affects your mental or physical well-being, you might have grounds for claiming constructive dismissal.

Breach of Trust

If your employer engages in actions that breach the trust inherent in the employment relationship, such as withholding wages, demoting you unjustifiably, or subjecting you to harassment, it could lead to a constructive dismissal claim.

Proving Constructive Dismissal

Proving constructive dismissal requires presenting compelling evidence to support your case. Some effective steps to consider include:

Documenting Changes

Maintain a detailed record of any changes in your employment conditions, including emails, memos, or any written communication that highlights alterations to your role, responsibilities, or working environment.

Seek Legal Advice

Consulting an employment law expert is crucial. They can assess your situation, provide professional guidance, and help you gather evidence to support your claim.

Gather Witnesses

If colleagues or supervisors have witnessed the negative changes or treatment, their testimonies can significantly strengthen your case.

Do I Have Grounds for Constructive Dismissal?

Assessing whether you have valid grounds for a constructive dismissal claim requires careful consideration. Consider these questions:

Were There Significant Changes?

Have there been substantial changes to your employment terms without your agreement?

Did Conditions Worsen? 

Has your work environment become intolerable, affecting your physical or mental well-being?

Was Trust Breached?

Has your employer's conduct breached the foundational trust of your employment relationship?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have a potential case for constructive dismissal. Consulting an employment lawyer can provide clarity and a better understanding of your options.

Can I Sue My Employer for Constructive Dismissal?

Yes, you can pursue legal action against your employer if you believe you've been constructively dismissed. However, it's crucial to follow the proper legal procedures and consult an employment lawyer to ensure the best possible outcome. The legal process might involve negotiation, mediation, or even a court case, depending on the circumstances. So it’s important to take it step by step:

Consult an Employment Lawyer

The first step is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer who specializes in labour law in your jurisdiction. They can help you understand the legal requirements for constructive dismissal claims and assess whether you have a valid case based on your specific circumstances.

Gather Evidence

It's crucial to gather evidence that supports your claim of constructive dismissal. This may include any written communications, emails, letters, or other documentation that demonstrate the breach of contract or unfavourable changes in your working conditions. Witnesses who can testify to the changes and their impact on your work life can also be valuable.

Document Your Resignation

If you've already resigned due to constructive dismissal, make sure you have a clear record of your resignation, including the date, your reasons for resigning, and any communication you had with your employer about your decision.

Follow Legal Procedures

Your lawyer will guide you through the legal procedures for filing a constructive dismissal claim in your jurisdiction. This may involve submitting a formal complaint, providing evidence, and adhering to specific timelines.

Negotiations or Mediation

Before proceeding to court, it's often advisable to attempt negotiations or mediation with your employer. This can help both parties reach a resolution without the need for lengthy and costly legal proceedings.

Litigation: If negotiations or mediation don't result in a satisfactory resolution, your lawyer may proceed with filing a lawsuit on your behalf. The court will evaluate the evidence and arguments presented by both sides.


The court will make a decision based on the evidence and the applicable laws. If the court finds it in your favour, you may be entitled to compensation for damages related to the constructive dismissal, which could include back pay, benefits, and potentially even compensation for emotional distress.


Constructive dismissal is a complex legal concept that empowers employees to take action when faced with intolerable working conditions. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you've been constructively dismissed, remember to document changes, seek legal advice, and consider gathering witnesses. By understanding your rights and following the appropriate steps, you can navigate this challenging situation and potentially seek justice for your grievances. Remember, consulting an experienced employment lawyer is an essential first step on the path to resolving your constructive dismissal claim.