Friday, June 01, 2012

Paul Lambert to Villa - an Employment Law Perspective

Norwich City manager Paul Lambert looks set to be the replacement for the ill-fated Alex McLeish at Aston Villa.

"The Canaries" issued a statement yesterday saying that Lambert had tendered his resignation but that this had not been accepted whilst negotiations were ongoing with another club. In reality the remainder of the statement appeared to accept that Lambert was likely to be on his way, and the refusal of his resignation is clearly a negotiating stance with a view to maximising the compensation payment they receive from the Pride of the Midlands.

There have been unconfirmed press reports that Lambert has a clause in his contract at Norwich permitting him to speak to Villa and that his resignation had been tendered after a Norwich board member had refused to allow him to do so.

If these reports are correct then Lambert may be able to argue that this was a repudiatory breach of contract by his employer and that it therefore amounted to constructive dismissal entitling him to resign with immediate effect. If so, then subject to any applicable FA rules, he would be a free agent and Villa would not have to pay Norwich for his services.

With regards to "accepting" a resignation, if the appropriate contractual notice required of the employee is given then the employer does not have a choice but to "accept" the resignation. If notice is not given then it is technically a breach of contract by the employee, which the employer has the choice not to accept. In other words the employer can be held to his contract. That being said, the Courts will not grant an employer an injunction compelling someone to work for them - the most that they would get would be damages and/or an injunction restraining the employee from working elsewhere during his notice period. Injunctions are a discretionary remedy and a Court is likely to take the view that damages would be adequate compensation.

When it comes down to it, the reality is that Villa will ultimately agree compensation with Norwich and get their man.

Who will then lead them to glory in the years to come.