Since I started blogging in Dec 2010 I have written a few posts about WA, and certain conflicts I had with her, well she resigned Friday. She has very good grounds for constructive dismissal but she does not know about her rights and even when I discuss these things with her she does not grasp what they mean.

In this post I want to discuss Constructive Dismissal because up until about 5 years ago I had no idea that it existed and what it meant.

The basics are that constructive dismissal may be defined as “a situation in the workplace, which has been created by the employer, and which renders the continuation of the employment relationship intolerable for the employee – to such an extent that the employee has no other option available but to resign.”

It is not for the employer (respondent) to show that he did not introduce any intolerable condition – it is for the employee to show that he did. There have been many referrals of constructive dismissal to the CCMA which have not succeeded – because the applicant has failed to prove the introduction of any intolerable working condition, amounting to repudiation by the employer of the employment contract.

Let’s say you are Jane, here are a few examples of how the boss can make things unpleasant for you at work:

  • The boss makes derogatory remarks about you, in your presence, while talking to other staff or customers. If a staff member says “but I checked with Jane” and he responds “what does Jane know, I don’t want anyone asking Jane anything anymore!”
  • When the boss gives you a direct order and then comes back to you and says he meant something totally different and that from now on everything must be confirmed via emails.
  • When the lift your boss arranged for you does not show up and you arrive late for work and the boss accuses you of being unreliable. To top it all you find out that the boss and other staff members were joking about how “Jane was waiting for a lift that would never come” haha….
  • You get to work and you computer mysteriously does not work preventing you from doing your work.  You complain to IT who says he will have a look but 3 days down the line you have no proof that you asked IT to correct the problem and the boss attacks you for failing to meet deadlines.
  • More and more deductions are taken from your pay so that you feel that nothing that you do is right and that you are taking all this punishment for nothing because you are not earning enough money putting even more pressure on you and creating doubt in your abilities. You start thinking about resigning at this stage.


WA arrived at work one morning in February and the whole display on her computer was upside down. She did not want to argue with anyone again because every move she made was criticized and she tried working like that but of course it is impossible. I restarted the computer which took quite a lot of hand eye coordination to do and the problem was solved until the next morning when we came to work it happened again. I know that the IT manager and the boss do these things because I have caught them doing them to me in the past too.

Unhappiness which is caused by a situation like this, which results in you resigning, gives you the option of going to the CCMA and arguing constructive dismissal but is it worth the trouble because if the company wants to get rid of you there is nothing that will change their attitude or your working conditions.

You might wonder – well why did I write this post then. I wrote it because when I explain to people that there are bosses who want to make life unbearable for staff – they often deny that such a thing exists!