In Buckland v Bournemouth University Higher Education Corporation, the claimant was a professor at Bournemouth University. By re-marking papers the claimant had already marked, the Employment Tribunal held that the University had fundamentally breached a term of the employment contract: that of mutual trust and confidence.
Although the University had held an inquiry into what had happened, the Employment Tribunal considered that the inquiry’s report did not go far enough in exonerating the claimant. The Employment Appeal Tribunal disagreed, saying that the University had “cured” the breach by holding the inquiry and issuing the report.
The Court of Appeal held that the breach should be looked at objectively so that if one party fundamentally breaches the contract, the other party is entitled to walk away, regardless of any attempt by the first party to cure the breach. In this case, the claimant was entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal.
This decision is important as it is the first of its kind on this point of law and has implications for employers who materially breach an employee’s contract and then attempt to remedy the situation. According to the Court of Appeal, any remedy would be too little too late and the employee is entitled to reject the contract and resign, claiming constructive dismissal.