19th April 2022

Top tips when dealing with a ‘heat of the moment’ resignation

We are often asked about resignations given in the heat of the moment and what the employer should do. You would think that the answer is simple, I mean, the person has clearly resigned, right? Well maybe not.

Where an employee gives a resignation in the heat of the moment, it could have been made because the person was angry or upset that day or perhaps they are a little immature in their actions and how they respond to things. While it might therefore be the case that they have made up their mind that they want to resign, you as the employer should always be wary of resignations given in this way as if the employee changes their mind and says that they made a mistake that could amount to a dismissal and, where the person has more than 2 years’ service, then they could bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

So, what should you do? In situations like this, we would always suggest going back to the person and clarifying whether they want to resign. Something along the lines of “you seemed upset today and while I appreciate that you might want to resign, I wanted to check with you once you have had the chance to reflect on things. If you do want to resign then let me know and I can process that but if you have changed your mind then why don’t we have a chat to see how we can support you.”

Ultimately, for a resignation to be effective it has to be clear and unambiguous. So, in the example above, by asking the person to reconsider their sudden decision and perhaps put the response in writing that shows that the person has reflected and they have taken the time to write a response to communicate that.

If the employee takes time to write a resignation email or letter then you can probably assume that this resignation is not ‘heat of the moment’ as they have taken the time to draft an email/type a letter and therefore you can probably safely accept this provided that the wording is clear.

It also always good if the person puts a final date on their departure (again this shows an unambiguous end to the contract). So, when asking them to clarify, you can always ask what they envisage their final day to be. It is also good if they use the word resign (or similar).

It is possible to shorten a period of notice by agreement. For example, if the employee (with a four week notice period) comes to you and says that they would like to go in one week and you are ok with that then there is no need to pay them for four weeks’ notice given the agreement which has been reached. Again, to show a clear paper trail to evidence that agreement, make sure you have this in writing.

It is also a common misconception that the employer requires to accept the resignation or it does not take effect. It would only possible for the employer to refuse to accept a resignation where the employee is trying to resign without fulfilling the required notice making them in breach of contract. Nonetheless, it is good practice to acknowledge a resignation as that shows a paper trail (remember though to make sure that it is not heat of the moment) but, if validly given, it cannot be refused.

If you require advice on this or any other employment law topic, then please get in touch with the Blackadders Employment Team and please sign up for our next Ask The Expert webinar.

Blair Duncan, Solicitor


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