How to deal with tricky resignations

It is a problem that we are occasionally faced with: an employee resigns verbally but fails to put it in writing. This is a potential problem because the employee might later claim that you dismissed them, or that there was a different reason for them leaving.

Ask the employee to confirm the resignation in writing. If they refuse, write to them confirming their resignation, setting out the reasons they have given and confirming your acceptance of the resignation. If there is then any controversy about this at a later date, this will be the only clarity about what happened.

If the employee has resigned in anger during an argument, tell them that you are not accepting the resignation at that time. Ask them to go home and calm down and come back to see you the following day. When the employee returns, discuss the situation calmly. If the employee no longer wants to resign, accept this. If they still want to resign, ask them to confirm this in writing.

Occasionally you might have a situation where an employee resigns and sets out a number of allegations or complaints in their resignation letter. In this case, do not ignore any issues raised. Invite them to a grievance meeting (and allow them to bring a colleague or trade union representative) to address the potential grievances. Try to resolve the problems and write to the employee setting out the solutions you have identified.

If the employee resigns and does not turn up for work the following day there is not a lot that an employer can do. If the employee refuses to come to work they cannot be compelled to attend work. Make it clear to the employee that there will be no payment for the days not worked. Also, if you really want the employee at work, you could threaten to give no reference or to give a reference which states that the employee breached their contract by failing to provide notice.

If the employee resigns during a disciplinary meeting, this could be a problem because there is then a lack of clarity about whether the employee has resigned or has been dismissed.
Again, ask for the resignation in writing and make it very clear to the employee that this is a resignation letter.

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