Heat of the Moment resignations…..How to react.

In a recent tribunal case, it was dismissed how an employer should deal with resignations which are made in the heat of the moment and further,  ambiguously worded.

In this case, an employee had handed a letter of resignation to their employer worded "I have no alternative but to resign my position". The resignation was as a result of what they believe to be a fundamental breach of their contract by the employer, and they felt that the breach was too bad to continue their employment with the Company.

The Employee then made a claim against the Company for Constructive Dismissal, there was however an issue with timescales, as the Employee only had 3 months from the date of termination to file a claim at Tribunal.

The above quoted resignation letter was dated 29 June 2012, however, as would be best practice, the employer offered the employee time to reconsider, as it appeared to be a heat of the moment resignation. The employee wanted to continue with the resignation, which was then accepted by the Employer. Notification was given that the Employees last day of work would be 27 July 2012.

It has previously been ruled that if no termination date is given on an employee’s letter of resignation, the date of termination is the date of the resignation letter. However if a termination date is given, i.e:

“I write to tender my resignation from the position of xxx. Based on my contractual notice period, my last day of employment will be xxx”

If the effective date of termination was 29 June 2012 the claim would have been made out of time. The Tribunal deemed that the wording of the resignation letter was not ambiguous, as it was clear the Employee wanted to resign, however it was ambiguous when they wanted to leave. Therefore they ruled that the Effective Date of Termination was 27 July 2012 and thus the Claimants claim had been lodged in time.

The Employer appealed, and the Employment Appeal Tribunal overturned the Tribunals decision. The Employer had acted correctly in allowing the Employee time to reconsider the heat of the moment resignation; however the Claimants decision to maintain their stance inferred that they intended to terminate their employment on 29 June 2012. Further the Claimant had written the letter based upon legal advice, and as such there was always an intention to terminate. The EAT held that the notice period held no legal effect and as such the Claimants claim was lodged out of time.

Published: 25 Oct 2013

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