You may think that only small businesses break employment laws, perhaps through a belief that they lack the knowledge or resources to ensure compliance. However, a recent case, successfully resolved by Truth Legal, shows just how wrong this assumption can be.

The Case

Tommy secured a job as a Kitchen Assistant with a major pub chain, working at a new branch which was opening in the North East. As Tommy went through his first two weeks of ‘pre-opening’ training, everything appeared to be normal. However, unknown to him, the pub chain was wracked by administrative problems; new employees were not receiving their employment contracts and there were significant failings in accurately recording hours employees had worked, and how much they ought to be paid. Tommy was to be paid monthly. However, due to his employer’s poor record-keeping, Tommy was only paid £58 for the whole of his first month’s work.  His managers acknowledged the mistake and assured Tommy that his payment would be corrected in his next pay cheque.

When the branch opened, it became apparent there were operational failings to match the administrative problems. A clear lack of staff resulted in Tommy working ten to twelve-hour shifts without a break. This continued for ten days before Tommy had to take a break; he nipped out to his car for a quick smoke and a can of energy drink. He had only been away from the kitchen for a couple of minutes but, on his return, Tommy’s manager grabbed him and pushed him back towards his workstation. His manager also verbally abused Tommy. At this point, Tommy decided to leave his job for good.

Truth Legal’s Involvement

Tommy contacted Truth Legal to see if there was any legal remedy for his ordeal. At Truth Legal, we have expertise in workplace assaults and employment law, so we were ideally equipped to help in Tommy’s case.

Navya Shekhar, Protected conversations

Upon consideration of his circumstances, it became apparent that Tommy could make a number of claims against his former employer. These included: failure to provide a written statement of employment; unfair dismissal and failure to pay the national minimum wage.

Ordinarily, to claim unfair dismissal an employee must have worked for the employer in question for at least two years. In Tommy’s case, he had only been working for the pub chain for a few weeks. However, the law provides that if an employee is dismissed as a direct result of asserting a statutory right, this will automatically constitute an unfair dismissal. By leaving the kitchen temporarily, Tommy was asserting his statutory right; his working day was over six hours long so he was entitled to a rest break by law.

Although Tommy was not formally dismissed from his job, the end of his employment can be considered a ‘constructive dismissal’. This can occur where an employee leaves their job as a result of their employer’s conduct. There are a number of requirements to establishing constructive dismissal. Perhaps most importantly, the employer’s conduct must be of a sufficiently serious nature to warrant the employee’s resignation. In Tommy’s case, his manager’s aggressive actions and verbal abuse were sufficient grounds for Truth Legal to determine that Tommy had been constructively dismissed.

A clear path of ‘cause and effect’ was therefore established to show that Tommy’s dismissal was caused, solely or significantly, by the assertion of his legal rights. Taking his break from the kitchen was Tommy enforcing his statutory right to a break; this resulted in the aggressive behaviour of his manager, which in turn led to the constructive dismissal.

The Outcome

Truth Legal successfully recovered all of the money owed to Tommy in wages and holiday pay. He also received a compensatory award for being unfairly dismissed.

We fought Tommy’s case on the basis of a ‘No Win, No Fee Agreement’ and so Tommy’s legal fees were capped at 35% of his compensation award when the case was completed successfully. Had the case been unsuccessful, in the vast majority of circumstances, these legal fees would not have been payable.

Can We Help You?

If you feel that you have been unfairly dismissed, mistreated or underpaid by your employer, please contact one of our solicitors for a free consultation. There is no-obligation to proceed further and you might discover you are entitled to compensation or another remedy.

Please note that names have been changed in this case description to preserve the anonymity of the parties involved. Any contact you have with us will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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Catherine Reynolds
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