Opinion

Forced resignation

A tribunal, in the case of Patel v Matalan Retail Ltd, has found that an employee, who was 'forced' by his employer to resign, was unfairly dismissed.

Mr Patel attended a disciplinary hearing following two procedural staffing breaches, in the course of his work as a store manager. The appointed disciplinary officer, Mrs J, was Patel's regional HR manager and had known him since he started employment with the company. On the day of the disciplinary hearing and before it had started, Mrs J informed Patel that she would be dismissing him and that his only other option would be to resign. After considering his options, Patel submitted his letter of resignation, stating that he had "no other option" but to resign.

Patel brought a claim for constructive dismissal. Whilst the tribunal did not uphold his claim for constructive dismissal, they did find that he had been unfairly dismissed by way of forced resignation. The 'informal' discussion that Mrs J had with Patel before the disciplinary hearing, whereby she proposed resigning as an alternative to dismissal, rendered it impossible for Patel to have a fair hearing. The tribunal held that had it not been for such a discussion, Patel would not have resigned.

The lesson here is to ensure that a disciplinary meeting, as part of a process, is just that and not something that is a veneer to a sacking.

This was first published in April 2011

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