Can I retract my resignation? - Paul Doran Law

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Can I retract my resignation?

Can I retract my resignation?Can I retract my resignation?

Imagine you’ve had a bad day at work so you spontaneously resign from your job. Later, you change your mind about leaving. Can you retract your resignation?

The short answer is: “Sometimes”, but you have to act quickly. Also, it is likely that your employer will have to agree – and they might not. So it’s best not to act in the heat of the moment. It’s best to take time to think about it.

This article gives more details.

What you should do

Check your employment contract or staff handbook to see what it says about telling your employer that you want to terminate your contract. This is known as ‘giving notice’. Usually, your contract will specify a notice period lasting a number of weeks or months.

Walking out the same day would leave them in the lurch, so the notice period allows your employer time to replace you, and allows you time to find another job (if you haven’t already done so).

Your contract might also state how you must give notice, for example “in writing”. Even if it says you can give notice orally, it’s best to give it in writing so there is a record of the date and details.

As with all employment law matters, you should ensure you follow the process outlined in your contract, and writing everything down is the most reliable way to record things you may need to refer to later.

What your employer should do

If you’ve followed the proper process, your employer should ‘accept’ your resignation. The HR Department might give you an exit interview to discuss your reasons for leaving.

If you gave notice orally – whether you shouted: “I quit” in a fit of anger or you sat down to formally tell them you want to leave – your employer should check that you actually mean it and that they understand you correctly.

They should also grant you a ‘cooling off period’ (at least a day or two) in case you change your mind.

If you gave notice in writing, there’s less doubt that you actually want to leave. (This is another reason why writing it down is a good idea.)

If your employer wants you to stay, they might try to talk you out of leaving – but they can’t force you to stay. If you definitely want to leave, they have to let you.

If they do manage to convince you to stay, both you and your employer must agree that the notice you gave is not operative.

If you want to retract your resignation, it can be enlightening to look at stories of what happened to real people in this situation. So here are a few…

Case study 1

For around 10 years, Mrs Levy worked in the records department of the East Kent Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. After having difficulties with a colleague, she applied for (and won) a new role in the radiology department.

She wrote to her manager saying: “Please accept one month’s notice from the above date”.

Her manager replied: “Thank you for your letter… in which you tendered your notice of resignation. It is with sincere regret and disappointment that I accept… your last day of work within Health Records will be Friday 8 [July] 2016.”

However, on 16 July, the radiology department withdrew the job offer they’d made Mrs Levy, stating unofficially that this was due to her record of sickness absence.

At that point, she tried to retract her resignation – however, on advice from the HR Department, her manager refused to accept her request and wrote to confirm her last day at work.

Mrs Levy considered she’d been forced to resign, so she brought (and won) a claim for unfair dismissal.

The employment tribunal considered the wording of her resignation letter to be ambiguous as she could have been talking about leaving the department, not leaving the Trust.

Note that if you’re in a similar situation there’s no guarantee that an employment tribunal will make the same decision. Every case is different. This example shows that your resignation letter must be clear, and your employer must clearly understand that you intend to terminate your employment.

Case study 2

Mr Omar worked for Epping Forest District Citizens Advice (EFDCA). Here’s the sequence of events, in brief:

Mr Omar received a letter about his poor timekeeping. He was angry about the letter, spoke to his manager, and resigned.

His manager told him to calm down and refused to accept his resignation. The same day, Mr Omar claimed the CEO told him to consider an alternative role.

Some days later, the CEO told him his resignation would stand, so Mr Omar tried to retract his resignation. However, his employer refused and said he was working his one month’s notice.

Mr Omar brought a claim of unfair dismissal, saying his resignation was “in the heat of the moment”.

The initial employment tribunal ruled that Mr Omar had indeed resigned, so he took his case to the employment appeal tribunal (EAT).

The EAT has referred it back to the employment tribunal, because:

Your resignation must be unambiguous. It should be obvious that your resignation is seriously meant, definitely intended, and conscious and rational – it’s all about what the recipient of your message understands. If you merely express the intention to resign in the future, that probably won’t count.

Case study 3

Mrs Hibbert worked for the Secretary of State for Justice. She had various grievances against them which were not upheld, so on 29 June she wrote to say: “I am of the view that there has been a fundamental breach of my employment contract by my employer and I have no alternative but to resign my position.”

Her employer refused to accept this and gave her five days to reconsider.

On 11 July, they accepted her resignation and gave her four weeks’ notice, which took her employment to 27 July.

She brought a claim of unfair dismissal, but failed to submit it in time so it was rejected.

If you want to make a claim, it must be submitted within three months less one day. In this case, Mrs Hibbert’s resignation letter didn’t include a mention of notice or leaving date, but her intention to leave was clear, and not made in the heat of the moment or under pressure. It was therefore considered that the three months started from the date of her letter, not the date it was accepted.

What this means to you

No matter how bad things seem to be, or how angry you are, it’s not wise to resign ‘in the heat of the moment’. Take a deep breath, sleep on it, and think carefully about what you want to do.

To resign effectively, it’s important to ensure it’s in writing with the notice period and leaving date spelled out. Don’t leave yourself or your employer in any doubt about your intentions.

If you want to retract your resignation, remember that your employer has to agree, and this is by no means guaranteed.

If you feel forced out, you might have a claim for unfair dismissal – in this case, you can always have an informal chat with us to discuss what your options might be. The initial call is absolutely free and with no obligation to proceed.

This advice also applies if you are being mistreated at work. It’s easier to win a case for unfair dismissal than for constructive dismissal, so, rather than resigning, talk to us to discuss your options.

Related reading

If you found this information interesting, you might also like to read our related articles:

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