A former Highland Radio presenter has been awarded €26,000 by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) for constructive dismissal following a significant reduction in his income without his agreement.
The employee worked at the radio station in County Donegal for 9 years prior to his resignation. His presenting role also included some commission-based sales work. In his evidence, he submitted that he had no choice but to resign from his role following a significant salary reduction. This arose as a result of his advertising client list initially being reduced and subsequently completely removed.
The employee also alleged that he was pressurised to meet targets despite the recession and that his use of a company car (previously provided to facilitate meeting with clients) was rescinded. These measures occurred against the background of a difficult period in his personal life, of which his employer was aware.
The employer denied these claims and maintained that it had attempted to encourage the employee to improve his sales performance. The employer further contended that the employee had rejected a number of suggestions that were put forward to him to improve his sales.
The employee told the EAT that he was dependent on the additional income generated by advertising sales to supplement his salary for presenting an afternoon radio show. He felt that he had "no other choice" but to resign and, in his letter of resignation, he described his unsatisfactory working conditions. The employer contended that it had made a counter-offer of a higher salary to prevent the employee leaving but, at that point, the employee had already made up his mind.
The EAT was satisfied that "the employer’s behaviour justified the claimant’s resigning and claiming constructive dismissal. There was a fundamental breach of contract in allowing an accumulation of losses which led to his income being very significantly reduced without his agreement." The claim of constructive dismissal was therefore successful.
The EAT made some interesting comments about the employee’s efforts to mitigate his loss after termination of his employment (as required under the Unfair Dismissals Acts). The employee limited his attempts to find alternative work to broadcasting roles and it was noted that this was "too restrictive an approach in the climate that prevailed at the time". Despite the fact that the EAT is entitled to have regard to attempts (or lack thereof) to mitigate loss in determining the level of compensation payable, an award of €26,000 was made.
This decision serves as a reminder to employers that unilateral alterations to terms and conditions of employment may lead to a breach going to the root of the employment contract and, in turn, a claim of constructive dismissal.