Q&A  

Consider accepting retracted resignations

Consider accepting retracted resignations

Q. Do I have to accept an employee’s request to retract their resignation?

A. Generally, once an employee has handed in their resignation by giving the proper notice under their employment contract, there is no legal requirement on their employer to allow them to ‘change their mind’ at a later date and withdraw the resignation.

Provided an employee works their full notice, their employer may have already started looking for a replacement and may even have offered someone else the role. 

While a company may not wish to lose the individual, management may now be concerned that the employee is not happy in their role, or as dedicated to it.

Permitting a retraction may be necessary in cases where an employee has acted ‘in the heat of the moment’ and, potentially, walked out of work angrily proclaiming that they quit.

Although it may appear the employee has now, essentially, left the business, this action is not the same as a resignation and should not be treated as such.

In this situation, it may be that the employee did not wish to resign, but simply needed time to calm down and now wants to retract their verbal resignation.  

In a scenario where an employee has verbally resigned in anger, it is advisable for employers to allow a ‘cooling off’ period before contacting the employee to further discuss the situation.

From here, it can be determined if the employee does wish to retract their resignation, or if they do genuinely want to leave.

If this is the case, it is important to have this confirmed in writing.

Although the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service’s guidance outlines that written resignations are not a legal requirement, and verbal notification is enough, ensuring clarity between the employee and employer can help avoid disputes arising later on.

To proceed as though an individual has provided notice to leave the business against their wishes could, potentially, be seen as a dismissal.

Depending on the circumstances, this may entitle the employee to bring a claim of unfair dismissal to the employment tribunal if they have the required length of service.

In situations where an employee has worked for a company for a period of two years or more, certain procedures need to be followed in order to facilitate a fair dismissal.  

To this end, it is always important to consider why they have acted so angrily in the first instance and if the issue can be resolved without them having to leave their role.

Tempers can flare in a working environment, and it is always advisable to work to prevent losing employees where possible, particularly if this outcome can be avoided.

The actions of the employee in resigning, and then seeking to retract this resignation, could also bring to light other issues in a business.