Employees are entitled by law to terminate their employment at any time, so long as they give notice in accordance with statute and with any terms regarding notice contained within their contracts of employment. Provided such notice is properly given, an employer cannot lawfully refuse to accept an employee's resignation.

There is no obligation in law for an employee to give notice in writing, nor to use a particular form of words to indicate that they intend to resign. In order to avoid confusion or misunderstanding, therefore, employers may wish to include a clause in employees' contracts of employment requiring those employees who wish to resign to provide notice in writing. Adopting such a policy protects employers from the possible consequences of misinterpreting an employee's actions and unwittingly dismissing that employee.

If an employee does resign, there is no dismissal at law (ie an entitlement to bring a claim of unfair or wrongful dismissal or redundancy pay), unless the employee has resigned in response to the employer’s fundamental breach (constructive dismissal) or has been forced to resign.

Note that an indication that an employee may resign at some future date does not constitute an actual resignation. The employer can only regard such a statement of future intent as a resignation if the employee has clearly specified a date on which they intend to leave or a defined period of notice.

There are circumstances, however, where resignation is not so straightforward. Examples include an employee:

  • resigning in the heat of the moment

  • resigning under the threat or possibility of dismissal

  • resigning without giving the required notice under the contract.

An employee may also resign claiming that there was a fundamental breach of contract on the part of the employer, and that this breach caused them to resign. This kind of resignation is, in fact, a form of dismissal, commonly known as constructive dismissal.

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