A breach of contract occurs where an employee or employer acts in such a manner that is in breach of the contract of employment. Where a breach of a contract of employment has occurred, the employer or employee may treat the contract as being 'broken' or 'repudiated' and they then may terminate the contractual relationship. When an employer is guilty of breaching the contract, an employee may accept the breach or, alternatively, they may resign and claim that they have been constructively dismissed. On the other hand, where an employee breaches the terms of their contract an employer would normally take disciplinary action up to and including dismissal, particularly in cases of gross misconduct
. How the employer or employee reacts to a breach by the other party will have a great bearing on any later claim. In essence, the reaction must be reasonable and proportionate so an employee may not be successful in a constructive dismissal
claim where a tribunal feels that resigning was an over-reaction in the circumstances. Similarly, an employer may be found guilty of unfair dismissal
if they summarily dismiss an employee for something which would be deemed as minor misconduct. Employers should also be aware that an employee may take a claim for breach of contract to the civil courts which may be considerably more expensive in the long run given the costs associated with defending a claim in the civil courts. Furthermore, a more divergent range of awards can be outlined by the civil courts including the ability to grant an injunction to prevent the employer from committing the breach in question.