Here at Pure Employment Law we often advise employers on situations involving employees who resign, or threaten to resign. Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions and myths about resignations, so we wanted to lay some of the most common ones to rest.
- That resignations need to be accepted
This is far and away the biggest misconception out there, possibly because it is frequently reported in the media that an employer has “refused to accept” a resignation. In an employment relationship, there is no need for a resignation to be accepted by the employer. Resignation is purely a decision for the employee, in the same way that dismissal is purely a matter for the employer – the employer cannot refuse to accept a resignation.
- Resignations need to be in writing
Not necessarily. This may depend on the wording of the contract of employment (assuming there is a written contract). A verbal resignation could be effective if there is nothing to indicate that written resignations are required. If there is a dispute as to what was said, it may be a matter of evidence for the Tribunal to decide.
If the contract states that notice has to be given in writing, then a resignation will only be effective when it is received by the employer. In that situation, the same principles would apply as for notices of dismissal, as we discussed in our recent update regarding the Syf case.
It is also worth noting that in practice, email will generally meet the definition of being ‘in writing’, and the employer will be deemed to have received an email when it has been read.
- Employees can’t change their mind and stay
Although, as stated above, a resignation is purely a decision for the employee, and not the employer, there are certain circumstances where an employee may be allowed to change their mind. However, the situations where this could apply are very limited.
The most common example is where an employee resigns in the ‘heat of the moment’. If this happens, then case law shows that they should be given a reasonable opportunity to retract their resignation. In these situations it will quite often be the case that the employer doesn’t want to allow the employee to retract it, and it is then a good idea to take specific advice on whether this needs to be permitted. Often this will depend on how much time has passed since the resignation.
- An employee can’t bring a claim if they stay
This one is at least partly true. If an employee hasn’t resigned, it is extremely unlikely that they will be able to claim constructive dismissal. By resigning, they are stating that they have been treated so badly that they can take their employer’s behaviour as a dismissal. However, there are also several employment claims that an employee can bring whilst they remain in employment, including discrimination claims.
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team 01243 836840 or [email protected]