Leeds United 0 Nigel Gibbs 1

Employers tried to turn an assistant manger into a cleaner

Employers tried to turn an assistant manger into a cleaner

Employers cannot treat employees badly, even if they don’t respect their competence. Leeds United discovered this after their assistant manager, Nigel Gibbs, won a breach of contract case brought at the High Court.

Gibbs had a fixed-term contract with the club in 2013 when the manager, Brian Mc Dermott, was hired. But he decided to stay on when new owners paid Mr. McDermott to leave.

Problems began when the new owners did not put Gibbs in charge of the first team. Instead, they offered him the under-18 team.

Gibbs felt this was below his new status and refused. Things got worse when the owner then said he should clean the grounds. He resigned and went to court to force them to pay off the balance of his contract. Given that this was football and presumably even cleaners earn a fortune, Gibbs lodged his claim in the High Court rather than the Employment Tribunal.

What is constructive dismissal?

An employee who has worked continuously for a period of two years acquires the right not to be unfairly dismissed under S94 Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA). Most Employment Tribunal cases concern actual dismissal, where the employer dismisses the employee.

A constructive dismissal occurs when the employee resigns, claiming that the employer’s bad behaviour drove him out. He then invites the Employment Tribunal, to treat his resignation as a dismissal, under S95(1)(c) ERA, by arguing that he had no choice but to resign because of the bad behaviour of the employer. Hence constructive dismissal.

Trust and confidence

A term implied by law into every contract of employment is that both employer and employee will behave in such a way as to enable the employment relationship to work effectively- the implied term of mutual trust and confidence.

To win, Gibbs had to show that Leeds broke the contract and damaged the working relationship. In legal terms, Leeds had committed a ‘repudiatory breach of contract’ thereby breaking the implied term of trust and confidence. For Gibbs, this was easy to prove as cleaning duties did not comprise his job description.

The next step to succeed was that Gibbs had to prove he resigned because of the employer’s breach and not for any other reason, such as another job. Gibbs succeeded here too. Gibbs was awarded £331,426.

We advise both sides, employers and employees (clubs and/players). It’s constructive to talk to us, before repudiation, on 0345 430 0145.

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