The Last Straw Argument

Constructive dismissal claims can be based on a series of acts, taken together, amount to a breach of contract; this is known as the“last straw” argument.


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


25 April 2019


11 July 2024
2 min read

Constructive dismissal is when an employee resigns in response to their employer’s conduct.

There are many things which can give rise to a constructive dismissal situation, obvious examples include:

  • Asking employees to do something illegal;
  • Being abusive toward employees;
  • Failing to pay employees on time without good reason.

Ultimately, if an employee can prove that they have been constructively dismissed, they can be awarded damages for breach of contract or (if they have more than 2 years’ service) they can also claim compensation for unfair dismissal which could amount to as much as 1 year’s pay.

The "Last Straw" 

Constructive dismissal can be based either on one serious act (such as the examples listed above), or it can be based on a series of acts or failings which, taken together, amount to a fundamental breach of contract.

The final act complained of is referred to as the “last straw”.

Where an employee relies on the last straw argument, they will need to demonstrate that there was a series of events leading up to the last straw.

If the series of events are few and far between it will often undermine their case.

The last straw does not need to be as serious as the previous acts complained of, but it must be more than trivial.

Examples could include:

Importantly, the employee must resign within a reasonable period of the last straw relied on.

If they wait too long, they could be seen as having effectively agreed to the employer’s behaviour.

Key Advice to Employers: Keep Records

Last straw arguments will frequently refer to a series of events which could go back over many weeks, or sometimes, years. 

It is crucial that employers keep clear and accurate records relating to interactions with employees, not only at significant times (e.g. disciplinary hearings) but also during events which could seem relatively innocuous at the time (e.g. pay reviews). 

Remember that employees may be entitled to see any documents that you create and you should always bear in mind how the document would look to an Employment Tribunal

Take Action

Many last straw cases concern allegations that employers have failed to deal with grievances or complaints raised.

It is essential that employers take action when employees raise issues.

If an employer can demonstrate that they listen to their employees and offer to remedy issues raised then even if no formal action is taken (e.g. if the employee decides not to pursue a formal grievance) it will help to undermine the employee’s case if they subsequently pursue a claim based on the last straw argument. 

Neathouse Partners: Your Trusted Partner

We empower employers across the UK with tailored advice, offering strategic guidance that aligns with business needs and goals.

99.2 %

Customer happiness rating

99.2 %

Customer happiness rating



Qualified experts

Chester Headquarters

Regus House, Chester CH4 9QR

Success stories
Having used Neathouse for some time now, I can highly recommend their services. I always get a quick response from my lawyer, the advice is practical, and I always feel confident that they’re helping us with the correct approach.
Jasmin Bemmelen Head of People and Culture @ Action Tutoring Ltd

Have questions?

Get in touch today

Contact us, and our team will get back to you within 24 hours. We value your questions and are committed to getting them answered quickly.

Get a quote

Hello! I am Nicky

Just fill in the form below with your details, and I will arrange for a member of our team to give you a call.

By clicking, you agree to our Privacy Policy