If you have taken the difficult decision to resign from your job, and you intend to bring a claim for constructive dismissal, you will need to formally notify your employer of your resignation and your reasons for this. Read on for practical employee guidance on how to write a constructive dismissal resignation letter, including key pointers to help support your legal position in the event the matter results in a tribunal claim.
Why you need to write a constructive dismissal letter
Before starting to write your resignation letter, it is important to understand what constructive dismissal is and what you will need to prove to a tribunal should you pursue a claim against your former employer.
Constructive dismissal is where an employer has committed a serious breach of contract, in response to which an employee feels they have no other option than to resign.
While there will have been no actual dismissal, in circumstances where the employer has acted so poorly or where their conduct has fallen so far short of the required standards that an employee feels unable to continue to work for them, the employee may be able to regard themself as having been dismissed as a consequence of that conduct.
For your resignation to qualify as constructive dismissal, you must be able to show that the breach was sufficiently serious to justify termination of the employment contract, and that the employer’s conduct directly resulted in your resignation.
Failure to document the reasons for your resignation may result in an adverse inference being drawn against you at a later date in the context of any tribunal claim. In other words, in the absence of any written indication of your reasons for resigning, an employment tribunal is more likely to accept a defence argument that your employer’s conduct was not the real reason for your exit. The resignation letter should be used as formal notification of your reasons for resigning.
What should a constructive dismissal resignation letter contain?
At the point that you hand in your resignation, it is important to clearly set out your reasons in writing for reaching your decision. While the letter should offer an explanation as to the nature and extent of the conduct that has led to you feeling forced to resign, it does not need to be extensive or detailed. The content of the letter should be clear and concise, albeit containing all of the following:
- A clear statement of the fact that you are resigning in response to a serious breach of contract by your employer, and that you consider yourself to be constructively dismissed.
- An outline of the reasons why you are resigning and that your resignation is directly as a result of these reasons. It can be helpful here to outline the effect that the employer’s actions, or inaction, has had on you, so that it is clear that you feel you have no choice but to resign, although this should be kept factual, avoiding overly emotive language.
- A clear statement that in consequence of the employer’s conduct you now consider your position at work to be untenable, leaving you with no option but to resign in response.
- Where relevant, a clear outline of any grievance procedure that you have followed, including the reasons why you are unhappy with the outcome. In circumstances where your grievance was not upheld, you can cite this as a reason for resigning.
- Where relevant, a clear statement that you were previously working under protest until your grievance was resolved and, as such, you have not affirmed or waived any breach complained about.
- The extent of any notice that you are giving, including the last day of your employment, although care needs to be taken here so as not to be seen as waiving any breach, or whether you are resigning with immediate effect.
- Any practical matters relevant to you, for example, a request for any outstanding salary or expenses, the collection or return of any belongings or property, and where to forward any final payslip and P45.
- Finally, the letter should be signed and dated, with your name clearly printed below your signature to identify to your employer from whom the letter has been sent.
The resignation letter will need to be carefully tailored to fit the particular circumstances of your case. Care should be taken when using constructive dismissal resignation letter templates since no two cases of constructive dismissal, or constructive dismissal resignation letters, will be exactly the same.
When should you send your resignation letter?
While there is no set timeframe within which you have to resign to remain eligible to bring a constructive dismissal claim, employees should note that any delay in resigning could go against you at the tribunal.
Any failure to act promptly may lead to an inference that you did not resign in response to the alleged conduct (particularly if the resignation relates to a single event), but rather for a wholly unrelated reason. Any undue delay also runs the risk of a finding before the tribunal that you accepted or acquiesced in the conduct that forms the basis of your claim for constructive dismissal.
Exceptions may apply where, for example, you have raised a formal grievance and are awaiting the outcome or where you have stated you are working under protest. In such circumstances, the delay should be explained in your letter.
Who should you send the letter to?
Given the potential adverse consequences of any undue delay, ensure that the constructive dismissal resignation letter is sent to the right person. Usually this would be your direct line manager, and potentially their manager, with a copy also sent to the HR department to ensure they are aware of your resignation.
When considering if you have a claim for constructive dismissal, you will need to apply the following two-fold test:
- Your employer was in serious breach of your contract of employment
- You resigned in response to that breach and not for some other reason
It will not be enough to show that your employer has behaved unreasonably. There must be a fundamental breach of either an express contractual term within the contract of employment, or breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between the parties, such that your working relationship is no longer tenable.
This could either relate to one single incident, provided this is sufficiently serious to entitle you to treat yourself as dismissed, or a series of incidents that, taken together, constitute a fundamental breach of the employment contract. The conduct could also relate to something your employer either has or hasn’t done.
The following list provides common examples of conduct that can form the basis of a constructive dismissal claim, although this list is by no means exhaustive, nor necessarily guaranteed to form the successful basis of a claim:
- Your employer is refusing, or threatening to refuse, to pay you, or to take away other contractual benefits such as a company car
- You have received a significant reduction in salary, or are consistently being paid incorrectly
- You have been demoted without warning, or without reasonable cause
- You are being forced to accept unreasonable changes as to how you work, for example, working longer hours or in a completely different location
- You are being forced to work in breach of health and safety laws, or otherwise in an unsafe environment
- You have been given an excessive workload, or are not receiving sufficient support to do your job
- You are being subjected to bullying and/or harassment in the workplace
- You have raised a grievance that your employer refuses to investigate.
Depending on the terms of your contract, an employer may be wholly justified in, for example, asking you to work longer hours or change location. Equally, even in cases where you have been subjected to bullying or harassment in the workplace, the employer may have already taken reasonable steps to prevent this from recurring or to satisfactorily resolve this.
As such, it is important to remember that every constructive dismissal claim will be approached on a case-by-case basis, based on whether any resignation can be justified in the context of the particular circumstances involved.
Steps to take before you resign
Even in circumstances where the conduct of your employer is arguably serious enough to justify your resignation, in many cases it may still be advisable to attempt to resolve the matter without resigning, either formally or informally.
In particular, many issues can be resolved internally through a discussion with a line manager or any HR department. Alternatively, you can lodge a formal grievance in writing, providing your employer with an opportunity to investigate and resolve your complaint, if at all possible.
Although you are not legally required to raise a formal grievance before lodging a claim with the employment tribunal, any failure to do so may be construed as unreasonable, resulting in a 25% reduction in any compensation awarded to you.
Further, if you do lodge a formal grievance but this fails to resolve the matter, it is still open to you to decide whether your position at work remains untenable, and whether or not to treat the breach as terminating your contract.
However, you should always bear in mind that any delay in resigning, especially where you choose not to lodge a formal grievance, could be construed as you accepting the conduct that forms the basis of any claim for constructive dismissal. In other words, you may be found to have waived any breach of contract by your employer.
As such, where you do not resign with immediate effect, instead seeking to resolve the matter internally, you should set out in writing that you are “working under protest” pending a satisfactory resolution to the matter, whilst reserving your right to bring a claim for constructive dismissal in due course.
Further, where you do decide to hand in your written resignation, it is often best to leave with immediate effect, otherwise again run the risk of being seen to waive the breach or, alternatively, providing scope for your employer to argue that the breach was not sufficiently serious to warrant immediate resignation.
Constructive dismissal letter template guidance
In the event that all reasonable steps have already been taken, or you have decided to resign without further action, and you are looking to draft a constructive dismissal resignation letter, ensure your letter covers the following as a minimum:
- Clearly state that you are resigning
- Outline your reasons for resigning
- State the date on which your resignation is to take effect and, where this is not immediate, your reasons for any delay
- Address any additional practical matters within the letter to avoid any further correspondence on these issues
- Sign and date the letter, with your name printed underneath
- Avoid any undue delay in submitting your resignation letter
- Send a copy of your letter or email to more than one relevant person to avoid it being overlooked
- Retain a copy of the letter for your records. Should the matter proceed to tribunal, the letter will be submitted as evidence.
The decision to resign from your job is a significant step and without any guarantee that a claim for constructive dismissal will succeed. As such, it is always best to seek expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity to explore all your options before resigning and to make an informed decision.
DavidsonMorris are specialist UK employment lawyers, with expertise in advising employees on workplace disputes such as constructive dismissal claims. We will assess your eligibility and merits for making a claim and taking advice before you resign can help ensure you have considered all options open to you.
Writing a constructive dismissal letter: FAQs
Who should I send the constructive dismissal resignation letter to?
Ordinarily you would address the letter to your line manager. It is also advisable to send a copy to the HR department and, if appropriate, your manager’s manager to ensure all relevant parties are aware of the issues.
Can I resign and claim constructive dismissal?
It is not enough to say that your employer has behaved unreasonably. There must be a fundamental breach of either an express contractual term within the contract of employment, or breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence between the parties, such that your working relationship is no longer tenable.
Examples of constructive dismissal
Constructive dismissal can relate to one single event or a series of incidents that, taken together, constitute a fundamental breach of the employment contract. The conduct could also relate to something your employer either has or hasn’t done. Examples could include demoting you without warning or reasonable cause, forcing your to work in breach of health & safety laws or forcing you to accept unreasonable changes in how you work.
How much is constructive dismissal compensation?
Compensation for constructive dismissal is made up of a basic award based on your weekly gross pay and length of service, up to a maximum of £15,240, and a compensatory award which, in most cases, has a statutory cap of the lower of £86,444 or 52 weeks gross salary. Most constructive dismissal claims, however, settle before going to tribunal.
Last updated: 29th January 2020