An employee can resign at any time. The resignation process starts with the employee handing in their notice. The employer then:
- checks the employment agreement to confirm the notice period clause
- accepts the resignation request
- calculates the employee’s final pay
- collects company property.
They may also give the employee an exit interview, but this is optional.
When an employee wants to resign
An employee can resign at any time by notifying the employer that they will be leaving, and giving them the correct notice period. Most employment agreements state that notice has to be in writing, and even if it isn’t required, the employee should put it in writing to avoid misunderstandings. If you want to resign and are unsure of your notice period, ask your employer.
When the employer receives notice of resignation
Employer confirms notice period
When an employee gives notice of resignation, the employer should first check their employment agreement to make sure that they have given the right amount of notice.
The employer can agree with the employee that they don’t have to work out their notice period.
Employer accepts resignation request
Accepting a resignation request is not a formal requirement. Once the employee has given the correct notice in their employment agreement, the employer can’t stop them from leaving at the end of their notice period. Accepting notice is acknowledging that the employee is resigning. Employers who think that an employee has resigned should make sure that resignation is what the employee intended.
If an employee has resigned verbally, it’s a good idea to get them to put it in writing with the date they propose to finish. You can then follow up by accepting their resignation in writing. You may wish to meet with them first to discuss.
Unintended resignation and cooling-off period
An employee might resign or say something that could be interpreted as a resignation, in the heat of the moment, for example, following an argument or when they are emotionally distressed.
What an employee should do
If an employee thinks that there is any chance that their employer might think they have resigned, when they haven’t, or don’t really want to, they should talk to their employer and correct this misunderstanding as soon as possible. If they don’t do this within a reasonable time then it may be reasonable for the employer to act on the basis that they have resigned.
What an employer should do
An employer should always check with the employee whether they intend to resign. If it is a potential heat of the moment situation, the employer should allow at least 24 hours for the employee to cool off before they ask the employee to confirm whether they do want to resign. This will give the employee time to calm down and reflect and then:
- withdraw their resignation
- confirm that they didn’t intend to resign
- confirm that they did intend to resign.
The employer should ask the employee to confirm what they want to do in writing. Accepting a heat of the moment resignation could have a negative effect on your business. For example, if you accept the resignation while investigating either an alleged misconduct or performance situation, your organisation could face a claim of constructive dismissal if handled incorrectly. The employer must not just assume that the employee intended to resign in this situation.
Sonja had an argument with a workmate at work, and left work angrily saying “I’m out of here”. Her manager Vivian called her later that day and asked what had happened. Sonja, still angry, told her about the argument and told Vivian that she was thinking about leaving due to the bad atmosphere. Vivian told her to take a day to think about it and get back to her. Vivian called Sonja again the next day and asked if Sonja still wanted to resign. Sonja said that she didn’t and asked Vivian to help resolve the bad working atmosphere. Sonja returned to work the next day and Vivian organised a meeting between Sonja and the other employee to help sort their issues.
If an employee has resigned but later changes their mind and wants to withdraw their resignation, the employer could choose to allow this.
If the employee asks to withdraw their resignation, the employer should agree or disagree in writing so that there are no misunderstandings.