When ‘I quit’ really means ‘you’re fired!’

#Megexit is trending on social media with talk of the ‘Prince formerly known as HRH’.

It is apparent that brand Sussex has not enjoyed the most positive of relationships with the tabloid press since, well, their honeymoon period. There is a lot of speculation surrounding the motivation for their decision to take a step back from the family business, including harassment on grounds of race.

Transposing their experience into the realms of employment law raises the question as to whether the Sussex’s departure may be construed as constructive dismissal?

Constructive dismissal occurs where an employee feels forced to resign due to the acts or omissions of their employer. 

The Court of Appeal in London revisited this concept in Kaur v Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust [2018] EWCA Civ 978:

  • The key test is whether an employer’s actions amount to a ‘repudiatory breach’ of the contract of employment. 
  • There is an implied term of trust and confidence. Any breach of this term would amount to a repudiatory breach – that is, a breach so serious as to terminate their relationship.
  • This test is an objective one, but a relative minor act may suffice as ‘the last straw’ in a series of incidents.

It was held that claimant’s contention of ‘the last straw’ was ‘innocuous’ and did not a breach of contract.

Whether brand Sussex would be so bold as to make such a claim is doubtful pending the resolution of the Duchesses’ action against Associated Newspapers currently playing out in the court of public opinion…

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