The Court of Appeal has ruled that once there has been a fundamental breach of contract, all the cards are in the hands of the wronged party. If the employer is in breach, the employee is not obliged to accept any offer of amends and retains the right to treat the contract as terminated. In this case the University had re-marked the papers of some of Professor Buckland's students behind his back, which the employment tribunal accepted was a fundamental breach of contract. However the University then set up an enquiry which was critical of the people involved and exonerated the Professor. But, as the Court of Appeal put it, his own petulance kept the wound festering, and he resigned.
The Court of Appeal overturned the Employment Appeal Tribunal's decision that the enquiry had cured the breach of contract, and that the employee had lost the opportunity to bring proceedings for constructive unfair dismissal. It admitted that its ruling could cause injustice, but said that to allow the possibility of curing a fundamental breach would bring uncertainty into employment law. However this decision should not necessarily stop employers trying to make amends. Many employees will want to keep their jobs if things are put right, and will also be aware that even if they are entitled to bring a claim, compensation will be reduced if an employment tribunal decides they have acted unreasonably.
Click below for the full decision (Buckland v Bournemouth University).