Heat of the Moment Resignations
A recent tribunal, Omar v Epping Forest District Citizens Advice focussed on a verbal resignation during a heated exchange with a line manager. The employee subsequently sought to retract the resignation, but his employer disagreed and accepted the verbal resignation, bringing the employment to an end.
The employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal. The central issue in the case was whether the resignation was a genuine expression of intent to terminate employment or whether it was said in the “heat of the moment” and did not reflect true intentions.
At first instance, the tribunal found in favour of the employer. But on appeal, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT), in a unanimous decision, found that the resignation was not a genuine expression of intent and remitted the case to a fresh tribunal for reconsideration.
The EAT’s decision underlined the importance of considering the surrounding circumstances when assessing whether a resignation is valid. In this case, the EAT noted that the employee had a record of positive performance reviews, had expressed a desire to continue working for the organisation, and had not taken any steps to finalise his resignation, such as clearing his desk or handing in his keys.
The EAT’s decision sets out important guidance for cases involving resignations made in the “heat of the moment.” It highlights the need for employers to carefully consider the context of an employee’s resignation before accepting it, and to be cautious about relying on verbal resignations made during emotional or stressful situations. The recipient of the resignation should, in the eyes of the reasonable bystander, consider that the resignation was ‘seriously meant’, ‘really intended’ or ‘conscious and rational’.
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