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Withdrawing a Resignation

There are a number of ways employment can come to an end. For example, dismissal (including the non-renewal of a fixed term contract),frustration, mutual agreement, and resignation. It’s resignation that I want to look at today.

Resignation is what happens when the employee gives notice to you that he wishes to end his employment with the company. The minimum notice period (a week) that an employee is required to give after the first four weeks of employment is set by statute. It doesn’t increase with service, though most employers extend the period of notice that an employee is required to give in the employment contract, especially for more senior employees.

Usually the employee will have thought through his decision, discussed it with his family and have another job in the pipeline. He should give you notice and work through the notice period, unless he is asked to remain on garden leave or his employer decides to pay him his notice in lieu and release him immediately. Hopefully, it is all fairly amicable.

Of course, it is not always that straightforward. We do come across occasions where an employee resigns. He then comes to his employer asking to withdraw his resignation and return to his role. Sometimes it is a blessing for the employer that the employee has resigned and it can be very tempting to cling to that. Whether it is reasonable to allow an employee to withdraw his resignation will depend on the circumstances.

The general rule is that once an employee has resigned, he has no right to withdraw the resignation unless the employer agrees to it. Sometimes an employee resigns in the heat of the moment. It could be because something has been particularly difficult at work that day or that you have raised an issue of misconduct or poor performance with the employee. If in a moment of madness an employee says he wants to resign, tell him to take some time to think about what he is saying. Allow him to think about it overnight. Once he has had the time to calm down, speak to him about it. If he still wants to resign then accept his resignation. A tribunal may well find it to be unreasonable to accept an employee’s resignation in the heat of the moment and force through the termination of employment.

If the employee has had plenty of time to think through his options and it can’t be said that it is a heat of the moment resignation, so you would be entitled to refuse to allow the employee to retract the resignation.

If the letter of resignation indicates that the employee is raising a grievance, explore it, though if people raise grievances only after the termination of employment I tend to deal with these briefly because there’s not all that much you can do then.

An employee who resigns in response to an employer’s fundamental breach of the contract is entitled to make a claim of constructive unfair dismissal subject to having need two years’ service qualification to bring this type of claim. If such matters do come to light when an employee resigns you should start an investigation and tell the employee you would like to find out more and see what you can do to resolve things before accepting his resignation.

It can be helpful to monitor reasons for resignations, especially if you have a high turnover of staff. This could be in the form of an exit interview. It may be that he has another job or just feels it is time to move on to new things. It may be that there is a problem of which you’re unaware, for example, in one workshop a manager was bullying the apprentices. It only came to light when one of the apprentices resigned and the operations manager followed it up with him.

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