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:
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