Should I quit my job if it’s toxic?

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Being forced to leave your employment may be deemed ‘constructive dismissal’.

If you are forced to leave your job because your employer is treating you badly, then you may be entitled to resign and claim for constructive dismissal.  But – and it’s a big but – it’s highly risky to resign without getting legal advice on your position and options first.  Constructive dismissal is hard to prove (especially where you don’t have additional claims for things like discrimination or whistleblowing) and it’s usually best to show you’ve tried to resolve things before taking that final option of quitting.

What is considered a toxic job?

A toxic work environment is ultimately a workplace that damages your mental health.  The causes could be anything from being bullied by your manager, to sexual harassment, offensive banter, discrimination, to having to deal with unpleasant customers without support from management.  There might be a general atmosphere that’s stressful, unethical, exclusionary, discriminatory, or hostile.  In our post-Covid world, a workplace that fails to provide a good work-life balance might be regarded as toxic.  All these things could cause stress and anxiety to anyone who doesn’t buy into that atmosphere, possibly leading to time off work, and impacting on your personal life.

The impact spreads widely – including the victims of bullying who suffer stress as a result, damage to the morale of those around them who witness it, the cost of having to recruit replacements for those who quietly leave without complaining, the time cost of dealing with absence and redistributing work, paying compensation to those who negotiate an exit – the list goes on.

With the increased importance of ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) considerations to prospective customers and investors, it’s ever more important for businesses to live up to their PR.

Can I leave my job due to stress?

You can resign and leave your job whenever you want (barring any contract terms restricting when you’re allowed to resign, which are usually only found in fixed term contracts). So, it’s always an option to resign if you don’t like your job – whether that’s because you’ve outgrown it, fancy a change, or because it’s toxic and damaging your mental health.

However, from a strategic employment law perspective, the better question may be should you leave your job right now due to stress.  In other words, what’s the best plan of action for you that will get you where you want to be?

You may want to see if you can resolve matters to improve your working environment, or even see if you can engineer a situation where you can negotiate an exit.  For instance, your employer may have an Employee Assistance Programme, or private medical cover, enabling you to access mental health support services such as counselling.  As these are usually free to access, it’s worth investigating what is available to you.

You should follow your employer’s Grievance Procedure.

How do I complain about treatment at work?

Usually, the best way to complain about poor treatment at work is to raise a formal grievance.  All employers should publish details of how to complain or raise a grievance.

It’s important to include all relevant information in your grievance that you might want to include in a claim if matters get that far. So, it’s important to give details of all the toxic treatment to which you’ve been subjected, and set out how that may give you potential claims for e.g. constructive dismissal, discrimination, etc. It’s also important to protect your position in relation to any potential claims by saying what will happen if your grievance isn’t satisfactorily resolved.

However, this isn’t the place to make an offer for a negotiated exit with a settlement agreement setting out the terms of your departure. If that’s your aim, we’d discuss how best to get there in your particular case.

How much should I ask for in a settlement agreement?

There’s no magic formula for how much to ask for in a settlement agreement – it will depend on your circumstances, your salary, potential claims, and your employer’s attitude to reaching a deal. It follows that what makes a “good deal” will be different for everyone.

The basic entitlements that we’d expect to see in a deal are payment of salary up to termination, payment of accrued holiday pay, and payment of notice pay.  In addition to these basics, it’s mainly the amount of compensation that’s subject to negotiation based on your situation and potential claims, as well as what your employer feels is a “good deal” for the business. Your situation will include how long it could take to find another job at a similar remuneration package, so this is something to look into. There may be a value in getting released from some – or all – of your restrictive covenants, and obtaining an agreed reference.

Employment Law Solicitor

Dealing with tricky workplace situations and negotiating exits is a big part of what we do. If you need more help with the subjects covered here, then do reach out to our expert solicitors.  You can leave a comment below, email or call us on 03300 020 863.

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