Stressed manager with Countrywide Estate Agents awarded £60,000

An office manager who resigned after being placed in a stressful and “intolerable situation” has been awarded £60,000 compensation.

Mrs A Fletcher had worked for Ashby Lowery estate agents in Northampton since 2003. She acted as deputy to the owner Darren Wilson and was left in charge when he was away.

She dealt with the landlords and tenants, and was in charge of more than 20 staff, including the admin, lettings and management teams.

The office ran smoothly, and staff morale was high until the business was taken over by Countrywide Estate Agents.

Mrs Fletcher said several problems arose after the transfer including payment of salaries and pension scheme enrolment. There was very little training on the new systems. Some suppliers weren’t paid on time, which resulted in them withholding their services.

This made it difficult for her to run the office efficiently, and the late payment of invoices meant she was sometimes unable to get credit references for tenants.

The former owner, Mr Wilson, had become an employee of Countrywide but did not get involved in trying to overcome the day to day management problems. This put more pressure on Mrs Fletcher, who said she had to deal with 700 email complaints within four months. She also became the focus for complaints from unhappy staff.

Countrywide officials looked into the problem and accepted that staff were vociferous and negative, yet uncomfortable about approaching Mr Wilson about their complaints as he rebuked them for doing so.

Mrs Fletcher resigned and brought a claim of constructive dismissal, saying there had been a lack of support and that Mr Wilson’s conduct had been derogatory and hostile.

The Employment Tribunal found in her favour. The judge said she had been placed under severe stress following the takeover. He added: “Mr Wilson may not have directed his anger at [her] personally, but his hostility made her frightened and fearful for her own position.

“The real reason for the [her] resignation was the intolerable situation she found herself in. I conclude that there was a constructive dismissal, and it was unfair.”

Mrs Fletcher was awarded £60,252 compensation.

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