IT manager constructively dismissed after being denied a company van is awarded £10,000

Mr A Rawlinson worked as an IT Support Manager for Catch22 Multi Academies Trust (MAT), servicing 5 schools within the Trust, all in different locations.

He was employed between 2009 and 2017 and was the sole IT support worker.

His job involved transporting IT equipment between the sites, for which he used his personal car.

Following a number of structural changes, by February 2017, Rawlinson felt his role had changed significantly from the one he was originally hired to do and he was now being underpaid.

He was on a 40-week per year pro rata contract but maintained that he was now effectively working full time.

On 27 February 2017, Rawlinson requested to be added to the schools’ senior leadership team and to have his salary raised, after providing details of a comparator who was earning £41,000, compared with his annual salary of £21,400.

He raised this issue on two separate occasions, but his managers neither replied to nor acknowledged his proposal.
In May 2017, Rawlinson renewed his car insurance for his personal vehicle.

In doing so, he discovered he was not covered for the business use trips between school sites.

Rawlinson approached Dominic Jennings, transport manager of the MAT, who secured a deal with a vehicle supplier that he could be provided with a van at a cost to the organisation of £1,000.

Jennings sent this request to his line manager for approval, but it was dismissed out of hand in an email that copied in Rawlinson.

Rawlinson described the email as a “hammer blow” and was later signed off work with stress.

On 7 June 2017, Rawlinson wrote to Graham Payne, executive head of the MAT noting a “continued lack of appreciation for his role.

He advised that the refusal of a van left him unable “to battle any longer”, and he requested terms to leave his employment.

Rawlinson gave his employers a week to consider his settlement proposal before resigning on 23 July 2017.

He brought a grievance, which was heard on 23 November 2017, but not upheld.

The Trust maintained that he had resigned rather than being constructively unfairly dismissed.

At the tribunal, Rawlinson’s claim succeeded.

The Tribunal described the behaviour of the MAT as a “classic ‘last straw”. Rawlinson was awarded £10,000.

With constructive, there needs to be an act which fundamentally undermines the employment relationship in such a fashion that the relationship cannot continue.

In this case, there was a history of unsatisfactory behaviour which culminated in the refusal to provide a vehicle for business use.

None of these actions or omissions were ‘classic’ breaches of contract but the judge was still satisfied that, when taken as a whole, they demonstrated a fundamental breach of contract.