When is a Resignation not a Resignation?

It is very difficult for an employee to unilaterally rescind a clear, effective resignation. Once such a resignation has been given and received, that is usually the end of the matter; there is no requirement upon the employer to carry out some positive act of ‘accepting’ the resignation. Further, receipt is enough – there is no ‘window’ after receipt of an effective resignation in which the employee may rescind it without the employer’s agreement.

The difficulty arises where the clarity or effectiveness of the resignation is in question. Its validity will depend upon all the relevant circumstances.

A resignation ‘in the heat of the moment’
There have been cases in which an employee has been able to “take back” a resignation, despite opposition from the employer. Where the circumstances of the resignation suggest that the resignation was not a deliberate and intentional act, it can be found to be ineffective. These instances almost always involve oral resignations and are usually given ‘in the heat of the moment’.

Employers who ignore special circumstances surrounding a resignation do so at their own risk. The things to look out for are:

  • The timing of the resignation – Is it given during or at the conclusion of an argument involving the employee?
  • The employee’s demeanour – Is the employee acting irrationally and/or out of character? Is there any reason to question the employee’s mental or emotional state?
  • The clarity of the resignation – Has the resignation and its effect been made clear by the employee or is there room for interpretation?
  • Events after resignation – Has the employee attempted to continue working and/or to rescind the resignation? If so, did this occur immediately or was there a delay? The former is more likely to indicate special circumstances.

Call Us

Tel: (08) 9322 8200

Fax: (08) 9322 8322

Opening Hours

Mon - Fri: 8:30am - 5pm