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Stella English v Lord Sugar: how to avoid constructive dismissal claims

Apprentice contestant Stella English became the series six winner and landed a six-figure job working for Lord Sugar. However, it appears that this may not have been the career-enhancing opportunity Stella had envisioned, as she is currently claiming constructive dismissal against the Amstrad mogul.

Stella announced plans to sue Lord Sugar in 2012. She alleged that he had said her contract would not be renewed as he has already met his legal scalesobligations, which gave her no choice but to resign. Giving evidence at an employment tribunal, she said that she didn’t feel like Lord Sugar’s apprentice as she had only met him five times throughout her contract, had been “ostracised” by colleagues and also suggested that her employment was a “sham”.

What is constructive dismissal?
As Stella felt that she was entitled to resign as a result of the conduct of her employer, the incident can be classed as constructive dismissal. She has then chosen to pursue a claim following her belief that there was a breach of contract.

These complex claims are known to be difficult for past employees as they must be able to prove that:

  • There was a sufficient, serious breach of a term of their contract.
  • They were subject to unfair or wrongful behaviour without warranted reason or cause.
  • They accepted this violation, subsequently ending their contract and resigning with minimal delay as a result of the breach.

If an employee is able to succeed in making a constructive dismissal claim against their employer, they will typically receive a payout for wrongful dismissal.

Protect your business from constructive dismissal claims
If Apprentice winner Stella English suing Lord Sugar has got you thinking whether or not your business is protected against constructive dismissal claims, here are some top tips for employers looking to reduce their risk of an employment tribunal:

viral 12Policies and procedures – regularly check that procedures governing performance management, dismissal, discipline and grievance are effective and up-to-date, and that managers are adequately trained in the implementation of processes. ┬áCommunicate the policies to all staff members, while making certain that they are practiced fairly and correctly. Employee support programmes can also reduce your risk of constructive dismissal issues as the precautionary action allows you to identify and resolve any problems in their early stages.

Strong employee engagement – regularly communicate with colleagues to address problems promptly before they manifest into greater concerns. Remain fair and reasonable, while being open and honest with staff, especially during performance management issues and disciplinary processes. This strong relationship can help you to remedy employee issues, and put you in a strong position should there be an employee tribunal.

Communicate with resigning employees – if you think that a leaving employee may be planning to pursue a claim for constructive dismissal, consider writing to the person. This provides you with an opportunity to negotiate, and gives the former employee a chance to reconsider, and also allows you to ask for a confirmation from the individual.

When looking to strengthen your defences against such employment issues, you can also seek specialist legal advice from Linder Myers: specialist constructive dismissal solicitors to further minimise the possibility of employees pursuing claims. Also, if you do have to attend a hearing, enlisting the help of expert Solicitors highly trained in employment tribunal representation with extensive experience in the field can help you to defend claims brought against your business.

This is a sponsored guest post for TheEmployable

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