Bliss v South East Thames Regional Health Authority: CA 1985

General damages cannot be awarded for frustration, mental distress or injured feelings arising from an employer’s breach of the implied term of confidence and trust. Dillon LJ said that damages for mental distress in contract are limited to certain classes of case including ‘where the contract which has been broken was itself a contract to provide peace of mind or freedom from distress.’
Dillon LJ set out the position on constructive dismissal: ‘It follows that I agree with the judge that the authority was in breach of contract in requiring the plaintiff to submit himself to medical examination and in suspending him when he refused to do so. I have no doubt that the breach was a continuing breach, so long as the suspension lasted.
Was it then a repudiatory breach, which would entitle the plaintiff to treat the contract as at an end and claim damages on that footing?
It is common ground on the pleadings that it was an implied term of the plaintiff’s contract that the authority would not without reasonable cause conduct itself in a manner likely to damage or destroy the relationship of confidence and trust between the parties as employer and employee. There is ample authority in employment cases to warrant the implication of such a term. The authority was in breach of that term, and the question is whether that breach was fundamental, or repudiatory, or not.’
. . and: ‘There must be some breaches at least of such an implied term which are fundamental and repudiatory and go to the root of the contract, and if ever there was a breach of such a term going to the root of the contract, it was this. It would be difficult in this particular area of employment law to think of anything more calculated or likely to destroy the relationship of confidence and trust which ought to exist between employer and employee than, without reasonable cause, to require a consultant surgeon to undergo a medical, which was correctly understood to mean a psychiatric examination, and to suspend him from the hospital on his refusing to do so.’


Dillon LJ


[1985] IRLR 308, [1987] ICR 700


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedGogay v Hertfordshire County Council CA 26-Jul-2000
The employee sought damages for breach of the implied term of trust and confidence, even though she remained throughout the employment of the Council against whom she was bringing proceedings.
Held: Her remaining in employment was a factor . .
CitedNottinghamshire County Council v Meikle CA 8-Jul-2004
The claimant was a teacher who had come to suffer a sight disability. She complained that her employers had failed to make reasonable accomodation for her disability, and subsequently she resigned claiming constructive dismissal and damages for . .
CitedWatts and Co v Morrow CA 30-Jul-1991
The plaintiff had bought a house on the faith of the defendant’s report that there were only limited defects requiring repair. In fact the defects were much more extensive. The defendant surveyor appealed against an award of damages after his . .
CitedKpohraror v Woolwich Building Society CA 1996
The Society, acting as a bank, had at first failed to pay its customer’s cheque for andpound;4,550, even though there were sufficient funds. The bank said that it had been reported lost. The customer sought damages to his business reputation.
CitedMeikle v Nottingham City Council EAT 14-Apr-1994
The appellant challenged dismissal of her claim for indirect racial discrimination based on two grounds. First, that the Tribunal’s decision was perverse; in other words that it was a decision which, on the evidence before it, no reasonable tribunal . .
CitedMeikle v Nottinghamshire County Council EAT 19-Aug-2003
EAT Disability Discrimination – Less favourable treatment. The appellant brought proceedings against the Respondents alleging that they had failed to make adjustments to her workplace and conditions so as to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Damages, Employment

Updated: 29 April 2022; Ref: scu.183848