Former employee wins over £60,000 after constructive unfair dismissal from Countrywide

A woman who was unfairly dismissed from Countrywide has won over £60,000. She had complained of a drop in staff morale, and her inability to lodge tenants’ deposits after Countrywide bought the firm she worked for.

Mrs A. Fletcher won her claim to have been constructively unfairly dismissed at an employment tribunal which looked into the case between July 26 and 28 last year. It had been contested by Countrywide, with evidence given by the then ‘retail director’ Michael Miller and Countrywide ‘people business partners’ Helen Broomhead and Betty Barnes.

At the tribunal, which examined no fewer than 460 pages, Mrs Fletcher represented herself, while Countrywide used a counsel, Mr A. Hodge.

Allegations that TUPE procedures had not been followed were rejected by the tribunal, although it did find that Mrs Fletcher had been constructively, and unfairly, dismissed following Countrywide’s purchase in December 2015 of Northampton independent Ashby Lowery, owned by Darren and Wendy Wilson.

Mrs Fletcher had worked there since November 2003 and at the time of the sale to Countrywide managed the lettings and property management team of about 12 people, and provided the admin management for about 24 others. She also dealt with tenants and landlords.

She had got on well with Mr Wilson and was his second in command.

After the sale, the tribunal noted a number of problems in applying the Countrywide offices processes to Ashby Lowery, including persistent issues over payment of staff and to suppliers, with invoices not being paid.

As a result, some suppliers put a stop on their dealings with Ashby Lowery, meaning that Mrs Fletcher was unable to obtain credit references for tenants or register deposits.

In April the following year, Ashby Lowery staff were erroneously given a pay rise, which was then taken away.

Mrs Fletcher became the recipient of staff complaints, with some of them “vociferous and negative” about their Countrywide experience.

Mrs Fletcher went on holiday in May 2016 and resigned during that time.

The tribunal last year found that at and immediately after the sale there had been virtually no meetings with Ashby Lowery staff by relevant Countrywide personnel, with no explanation of new office systems, no training, no induction and no written instructions or guidance. There had been a “massive drop of morale”, the tribunal found.

It added: “The claimant had loved her job for over 12 years. It was her life.”

The tribunal ruled that the claimant was constructively unfairly dismissed and ordered a remedy judgment.

The tribunal, at Cambridge, has now ordered Countrywide to pay her £60,242.

The decision, published yesterday along with the other documents, shows the payment is made up of £8,622 plus a year’s pay of £51,620.

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16 Comments

  1. Hillofwad71

    Its enough to make  you weep .All  these fantastic brands and  well  run businesses under the CWD umbrella -mishandled

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  2. MKM1979

    Sadly the experience sounds horribly familiar. I am so so pleased Mrs Fletcher took action and would like to shake her hand. I am somewhat ashamed some of us didn’t do the same when the same happened to us!

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  3. CountryLass

    How can she be constructively unfairly dismissed when she quit? Am I missing something? I understand that the office was miserable and there were a lot of issues, but she made the decision surely?

    Honestly not trying to be a *dog*, it just doesn’t make sense to me..

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    1. gk1uk2001

      Because constructive dismissal is where an employer intentionally makes an employee as uncomfortable as possible with a view to making them quit, therefore negating any need for redundancy payments etc.

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      1. CountryLass

        Thank you, I’d heard the term before but didnt know what it meant.

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    2. Room101

      Its catch 22.  Employee has to resign in order to show that they are not accepting of and cannot continue their duties due to the unfair treatment of their employer.  If they were to continue in their employment it is seen as acceptance of their working conditions.  The law is a dogs dinner in this area due to the burden of proof being placed on the shoulders of the person who has to resign from a paid position to tackle a long, complex and expensive legal process.  This heavily favours the employer, who knowingly and unfortunately seek to take advantage of the financial constraints of their victims in the hope to avoid having to do the right thing for long serving, loyal members of the team.

      Its a very complex area so anyone who takes it on and wins an award clearly had good reason to part company.  Situations of this nature often arise from weak management who are out of touch and out of their depth.

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  4. J1

    Constructive dismissal arises when there is a complete breakdown in trust between the employee and employer, and if that breakdown leads to a situation where the employee can no longer carry out their duties in line with their job description.

    If it can be determined that the employer was at fault, then a claim is likely to succeed.

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    1. CountryLass

      Thank you

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  5. new life

    Well done Mrs fletcher lets hope theres enough money in the business to pay her……..!!

    This was par for the course for CWD i experienced this first hand they bought a thriving familly business and destroyed it within 3 years with no original staff remaining?

     

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    1. Room101

      Ditto “new life”
      I’ve seen this happen in other businesses and first hand where good staff walked out the door with nothing due to the undesirable treatment and poor decisions the new establishment handed down via weak management.  
      As alluded to above, its a gamble, but a cheaper alternative when big businesses are having to deal with head count / redundancy situations.  
       

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    2. MKM1979

      Sadly you have therefore been through the same as me. They made such a dogs dinner of our takeover the company they originally bought no longer exists at all!!!

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  6. kazmb28

    This happened to myself & colleagues.  We had the unfortunate experience of being TUPED over to Countrywide having worked for a small independent firm for many years.  They promised many things!  Within 18 months all of us had been made redundant!  However, it was such a relief not to work for such an awful company – the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing or even what day of the week it is.   The morale of staff was atrocious.  The day myself and my colleagues walked out of that building and to never have to deal with Countrywide again was a good day!  Oh but I did have to deal with them again – they got my redundancy pay wrong – there’s a surprise!

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  7. propertylady225

    Constructive dismissal is still happening even with current staff members. Its a way they get rid of people and actually 9/10 people just go and CW know this as most people cant afford to go to tribunal but im pleased to see someone took this far enough and won!

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  8. Shekington10

    Interesting how the article only says that Mrs Fletcher “got on well with Mr Wilson and was his second in command” but the Court case states the main reason for the grievance was that “The Claimant’s concerns were that Mr Wilson was not in the office (apparently often on holiday or playing golf), that the Claimant was doing everything in the office, that Mr Wilson was much less interested than before and she could not go and speak to him…..that Mr Wilson was telling Mr Miller that everything was fine, and that the Claimant needed support in the office but Mr Wilson did not want anybody coming in…..The Claimant said that Mr Wilson was not going to change and he was very angry about Mrs Barnes coming in. A longstanding member of staff had given in her notice and Mr Wilson had not even tried to persuade her to stay. She did not see why she should sit there when Mr Wilson was not at work, getting his turnover up, as he was going to get the money at the end. She was leaving with immediate effect and did not want to talk to Mr Wilson.”

     

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    1. Philosopher2467

      Do I detect an air of resentment from the claimant (employee) toward the former  owner of the business? Or; isit just me?

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  9. henrymarr80

    The employed someone else to do my job and then hung me out to dry. No one took the time to be honest and straightforward with you. I had the money to make a case against them but wanted to get on with my life. Says it all when the HR team all leave!

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