Quigley v University of St Andrews, Employment Appeal Tribunal, 9 August 2006

Background

Mr Quigley was a university lecturer who made a formal complaint about the behaviour of a colleague. In March 2000, he stated that he had taken legal advice and, if he did not get a satisfactory result, he would have “to explore constructive dismissal” – although he did not in fact explore constructive dismissal at that time.

In 2001, Quigley appealed against an unsuccessful application for promotion. While the appeal was pending, a review was carried out. The review concluded that there had been unprofessional behaviour in the department, but no disciplinary action was recommended. Quigley objected to these findings.

Quigley’s promotion appeal was dismissed in March 2002, and he resigned by a letter dated 29 May 2002. He presented a claim for unfair constructive dismissal on the basis that St Andrews had breached the implied term of trust and confidence.

Decision

The tribunal was not satisfied that Quigley had resigned because of the outcome of his appeal or any other alleged breaches of contract by St Andrews. The tribunal took account of the two-month delay between the failure of his appeal and his resignation letter. The tribunal did not accept Quigley’s explanation for the delay, which was that it had taken time to arrange a meeting with a solicitor.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed the appeal. It held that Quigley’s delay could not be justified by the time it had taken him to consult a solicitor to discuss his position. In any event, he had threatened constructive dismissal in March 2000, and so must have been aware of his rights at that time.

Comment

The EAT’s decision in this case does not create new law as there are already established principles regarding delays in constructive dismissal cases. However, this appears to be the first case where the reason for the delay was related to obtaining legal advice.

Given the serious consequences facing an individual who is considering resigning and claiming constructive dismissal, financial and otherwise, it is surprising that this point hadnot arisen before.

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