Heat of the moment resignation should have been retracted

A managing director has won a claim of unfair dismissal against a company he founded after his colleagues accepted a resignation made in anger, and terminated his employment hours after he stormed out of a meeting.

An employment tribunal (ET) heard that the director told his fellow directors “I won’t be back” as he left a meeting about employees’ pay. Despite contacting the directors the day after the disagreement to clarify he was not resigning, he was told his resignation had already been accepted, and he was not to interfere with the business of the company any more, or speak to staff.
The ET ruled this was an unfair dismissal, as the director offered “no real resignation despite what might have appeared at first sight”.

The argument erupted as the directors could not agree about whether or not to award staff a pay increase. The judge accepted that his actions on the day he walked out “amounted to an apparently unambiguous resignation”. But he also noted the circumstances in which it had happened meant the company should have given more thought before ending his employment. The tribunal said “the directors were blinkered by an overwhelming desire to ensure that the claimant would not be allowed to return to work, in any circumstances, and that no explanation whatsoever from him for his conduct, even though it was unprecedented in some thirty years, would be accepted.” The claim of unfair dismissal was therefore upheld.

Employers should always respond carefully to situations where employees resign ‘in the heat of the moment’”. Tempers can flare in the workplace, and it is advisable in these circumstances to give the employee time to calm down, contact them later, and get them to confirm in writing that they do wish to resign.

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