Northern Ireland's Londonderry Sentinel reports a young pregnant woman was, in the words of Waterside-based SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, "literally bullied onto the street by her employer and has nowhere to go."
"This young woman found herself in a position where she had her hours cut continually to the point where she felt she couldn't go on," said Mr. Ramsey.
The woman, a foreign national, cannot be named for legal reasons, but she was employed by a company in the Waterside, and may have a strong claim for constructive dismissal against her former employer.
He made the remarks during a meeting of the Stormont Employment and Learning Committee to consider a briefing from the Northern Ireland Law Centre on proposed changes to the Workplace Disputes Resolution Procedure.
Referring to the young woman's predicament Mr. Ramsey told representatives at the meeting Northern Ireland badly needs an independent one-stop shop for workers involved in workplace disputes.
He commented: "It would be good to see how other models work and whether there is a better system. At the moment, there are increasing numbers of people, employees and migrant workers specifically, who are vulnerable and marginalised. I am interested, therefore, in hearing about how the one-stop-shop model might be taken forward to ensure that people have maximum representation."
Mr. Ramsey also stressed that an enhanced advice and support service is needed to help vulnerable workers.
What is constructive dismissal?
To prove constructive dismissal, an employee must establish their employer committed a serious breach of contract, they did not accept the breach, and they felt forced to resign because of that breach. Examples of serious breaches of contract in this context include the following:
- a unilateral pay cut;
- arbitrary demotion to a lesser role;
- changing job duties, working hours or place of work without the affected employee's consent;
- making it impossible for an employee to do their job effectively;
- failing to give an employee reasonable support to carry out their job without disruption or harassment from co-workers; &
- forcing an employee to work in conditions where health and safety regulations are not observed.
Constructive dismissal cases are notoriously difficult to win, so always seek advice before leaving your job. Factors such as your employment status, the terms of your employment contract, length of service, and reasons for leaving all require consideration.
** Additional Information & Advice **
Alternatively, you may prefer to speak with an employment law solicitor. You can find a solicitor in Northern Ireland for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.