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What Happens When An Employee Says They're Resigning?


An employee may give notice to end his or her employment at any time. An employer cannot refuse to accept a resignation but, in the event of an employee tendering their resignation, the employer can ask a well-regarded member of the team to reconsider their decision. There may also be other circumstances where an employee should be asked to reconsider their resignation, for example, where it has been given in haste.


Where possible, a resignation should always be tendered in writing. Where an employee gives verbal notification of their resignation, they should be requested to confirm it in writing. Where an employee resigns and, in the course of their resignation, they raise a grievance or raise issues which may amount to a grievance, it is always safer to invite them to a grievance hearing even in cases where the employee has already left the employment.


If an employee does agree to reconsider their resignation, it is important to explore the reasons for their resignation in order to resolve any issues and prevent the same situation arising in the future. It may be that the grievance procedure is the best route to use, especially in cases where the employee’s reason for resignation could potentially give rise to an employment tribunal complaint. In other less serious cases, it may be that an informal meeting resolves the situation. If in doubt, ask the employee how they would prefer to resolve the situation.


The Exit Interview


Even where a resignation is amicable, it is advisable to carry out an exit interview to establish the reasons for the resignation. It is recommended that an exit interview be held as employees will on occasion discuss areas of concern relating to their job or employment which they would not raise whilst in employment. This can provide useful information relating to the internal workings of the business. Recruitment is expensive and it can be beneficial to spend some time with employees who are leaving to establish the reason why.


The exit interview is usually best done by way of an informal meeting between the employee and a senior person who is not directly involved in the employee's supervision. The notes taken during the exit interview should be placed in the employee's personnel file. The information gathered during an exit interview should be used constructively with a view to improving the working of the business.


Should any issue arise where you feel the grievance procedure may be the most appropriate course of action, you should ask the employee whether they wish to raise a formal grievance. If they do, the grievance procedure should be adopted.


Constructive Dismissal


A claim for constructive dismissal is a claim by an employee that their employer acted in such a way that they could no longer continue in their employment and therefore had no alternative but to resign. In order to bring a successful claim for constructive dismissal, an employee must tender their resignation in response to what is termed a ‘fundamental breach of contract’ by the employer. Moreover, the employee must leave in good time in response to that breach. Examples include where an employee is subject to discrimination or bullying and harassment, or where an employer unilaterally changes a fundamental term of employment such as pay or hours of work.


It is difficult to provide an exhaustive list of reasons why an employee might successfully claim constructive dismissal. However, an employee feeling they have been poorly treated is not sufficient for a successful claim. The employee must be able to point to a fundamental term of their contract that has been breached or a course of conduct by the employer that makes it impossible for the employee to remain in employment.


Generally, as an employer, you should know whether you are vulnerable to a claim for constructive dismissal being made against you as the employee’s reason for resignation will let you know whether they believe they have had no option in tendering their resignation. If you do consider that there is a risk to your business once you receive a resignation, there are several options open to you including trying to resolve the situation and asking the employee to reconsider their resignation, or trying to settle any claims an employee made using a settlement agreement.


If, of course, you believe the complaint to be without merit, you may reject their grievance and defend any claim that may be made against you.


Resignation during disciplinary


During the disciplinary process, the employee may resign from the company. If this is done verbally, it is always a good idea to ask for this to be placed in writing and any issues raised in the resignation dealt with as above.


If no issues are present and the company is happy to accept the resignation and not proceed with the disciplinary, this should be clearly noted in the acceptance letter.