How Important are Time Limits in a Constructive Dismissal Case?

In Dr Paul Leaney v Loughborough University, an appeals tribunal has ruled the original approach concerning time limits was wrong. As a result, they have remitted the case to the original tribunal for new consideration. Below, we discuss what happened in the case, the original decision and the view of the appeals tribunal.

Then, we explore what constructive dismissal is and how it differs from unfair dismissal. Finally, we examine the eligibility criteria employees must satisfy to bring compensation claims to an employment tribunal.

If you have questions about the time limits or whether you’re eligible for payouts for constructive dismissal, contact Redmans Solicitors. We are employment law specialists and could discuss your circumstances before uncovering your eligibility to claim compensation. Get in touch with us today by:

The Facts in Dr Paul Leaney v Loughborough University


Dr Leaney (“The Claimant”) began working for Loughborough University (“The Respondent”) in 1979 and had an immaculate employment record thereafter. However, things changed when a student self-harmed in a flat he was the warden of in November 2018. 

Following the incident, the University raised concerns about how the matter was dealt with. This came about as a result of a letter from the University Health Centre involving student assistance. Subsequently, an investigation was launched to establish the credibility of the claims against Dr Leaney.

In January 2019, the claimant learned that no formal case would proceed, but an informal chat about his conduct occurred. This resulted in Dr Leaney raising a grievance before appealing the decision in May when it was only partially upheld. Despite this, no grievance appeal hearing was ever arranged, and the claimant resigned from his role as warden in June.

Several months later, in January 2020, Dr Leaney wrote to the University, pushing for his grievance appeal to be reviewed. However, after several responses from the University telling him to “draw a line under the matter”, he withdrew his appeal.

Dr Leaney Seeks Legal Advice

On 29 June, the claimant contacted the Dean of the School of Engineering, requesting help with the incident. Yet, he was told the matter was outside the Dean’s remit, causing him to lose faith the University would help. As a result, he contacted a solicitor on 1 July whilst continuing to work.

The solicitor advised Dr Leaney to partake in negotiations with the University, but these were unsuccessful. As such, he deemed the end of negotiations on 7 September as the ‘last straw’. He went on stress leave from 10 September, influenced by the incident and ensuing treatment he endured, and resigned on 28 September. Subsequently, he said the University had broken the implied term of mutual trust and confidence and made constructive dismissal claims.

The Tribunals Disagree Over Time Limits

Unfortunately for the claimant, the original employment tribunal dismissed his claims. They explained that by working from 29 June until 7 September, Dr Leaney had passed the time limits to claim. This is because he continued to work despite the supposed breach, affirming his contract.

However, the employment appeals tribunal disagreed. They believed the initial tribunal focused too much on the timeframe before resigning as affirmation rather than the claimant’s conduct. Here, the appeals tribunal pointed to several factors that should’ve been considered further, including how:

  • It was the summer holidays between 29 June and 7 September, and Dr Leaney wasn’t completing significant work
  • Attempts to resolve the matter through negotiations occurred during this period
  • The claimant went on stress leave shortly after negotiations ended
  • He’d worked for the University for over 40 years, making his decision to resign a substantial one

As a result, the employment appeals tribunal felt the matter needed fresh consideration. They remitted the case to the original tribunal and requested the above points to be considered.

Constructive Dismissal vs Unfair Dismissal

In the above case, Dr Leaney made constructive dismissal claims. Employees may have encountered similar terms, such as unfair dismissals, and questioned their differences. As such, we outline the constructive dismissal meaning and how it differs from the other below.

When employees have been ‘constructively dismissed’, they’ve essentially had no other choice but to resign due to their employer’s conduct. This is a type of unfair dismissal and occurs when employers’ conduct breaches the implied term of trust and confidence.

Comparatively, an employee will have been ‘unfairly dismissed’ if their employer terminates their contract unfairly. This could occur for a number of reasons. For example, an employer may have followed an incorrect procedure during dismissal or sacked an employee because they’re pregnant.

Constructive Dismissal Claims Eligibility – Time Limits and More

Now that we’ve covered the constructive dismissal meaning, we will explore the eligibility criteria for making such claims, including the time limits. As discovered in the case above, individuals must ensure they don’t delay bringing a claim. Doing so could lead to the tribunal ruling the employee has affirmed their contract following a breach.

However, there are other elements an individual must satisfy to be entitled to payouts for constructive dismissal. This includes that an individual must:

  • Be legally classed as an employee
  • Have worked continuously for their employer for two years
  • Abide by the time limits and bring a claim within three months minus one day from the last day of their notice or when they resigned

Contact Redmans Solicitors today to find out if you’re eligible for payouts for constructive dismissal. We can answer your questions about the eligibility criteria, including the time limits, and advise how you could proceed. Start your journey with us today by: