The employment tribunal in Wright v North Ayrshire Council had found that the first two legal requirements for a claim for constructive dismissal - that there was a breach of contract by the employer and that the breach was so fundamental that it indicated that the employer had effectively refused to perform its side of the contract - had been satisfied. The Council had failed to deal properly with three grievances and the claimant had been the subject of an allegation of theft that turned out to be entirely misplaced. The question was whether the claimant had resigned in response to those breaches.

The tribunal heard evidence of the claimant's very difficult personal circumstances. Her work shifts were unforgiving and attempts to reorganise her working pattern to accommodate her caring duties at home had been unsuccessful. In other words, the potential reasons for her resignation were in part to do with her employer's breaches, but also her personal circumstances. The tribunal found that, in reality, the claimant could not combine caring for her partner with the demands of her job and this was the effective cause of her resignation, not the Council's breaches. As a result, the tribunal concluded that she had not been constructively dismissed.

The EAT allowed the claimant's appeal - as long as the repudiatory breach is one of the factors relied on in resigning, the employee can claim constructive dismissal. Even if the employee leaves for "a whole host of reasons", the question is simply whether the employer's breach played a part in the resignation, not whether it is the principal reason for the resignation.

There was an EAT decision on similar lines last year in a case where the claimant resigned in response to the rejection of her grievance about alleged bullying (which was not a breach) and failure to pay sick pay (which was). As the latter was a factor in the resignation, the constructive dismissal claim succeeded, even though it was not the main reason for the resignation.

As the EAT pointed out (in both these cases), the fact that the employer's breach was not the principal reason for the dismissal could limit the claimant's unfair dismissal compensation. If the claimant would have resigned anyway it might be difficult to show that any loss had been suffered.