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Employers Beware : What to consider when accepting a Notice of Resignation.

Employers Beware : What to consider when accepting a Notice of Resignation.

We should all be aware what a letter of resignation is but are you aware of whether it is required or not? A letter of resignation is when an employee decides to terminate their contract of employment with their employer. There are no legal requirements setting out what a letter of resignation must or must not include, or if one is required to end employment but it is strongly advised that it is clear and unambiguous.

Recent Employment Appeal Tribunal regarding a misinterpreted Notice of Resignation

A recent case brought to the Employment Appeal Tribunal is an important reminder to employers and employees alike about the need for clarity and unambiguity in a notice of resignation.

The case in point is that of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust v Levy. Ms Levy was working in the medical records department of the hospital when she received a conditional offer to move internally to the employer’s radiology department. She wrote to her manager of the medical records department stating ‘one month’s notice’ and her manager responded by accepting what he called her ‘notice of resignation’.

Unfortunately for Ms Levy her conditional offer to move to the radiology department was withdrawn so she tried to retract her ‘notice of resignation’ to remain in her role within the medical records department. Her manager refused, and at that point proceeded to complete the employer’s termination paperwork and as a result Ms Levy’s employment came to an end.

In response to this Ms levy brought a claim for unfair dismissal on the basis that her notice was not to terminate her employment with the employer, but rather to provide notice of an internal transfer.

Resignation communications can be notoriously difficult to know what to say or from an employer’s perspective, what it is that they should contain. This type of case makes it ever more prevalent to both employers and employees that there are learnings to be taken from within this case, mainly;

  • In terms of the employee, Ms Levy’s letter giving notice was ambiguous – it could have referred to her intention to move to the radiology department, or it could have referred to an intention to terminate her employment.


  • And the employer; the manager had not taken any steps upon receiving Ms Levy’s notice to complete the termination paperwork or calculate her accrued annual leave – that only happened once the offer of a role in the radiology department had been withdrawn.

Key considerations for the recipient of a Notice of Resignation

From an employer’s perspective, if an ambiguous notice of resignation is received, it is key to consider the circumstances in which it was received. Could the words used be interpreted in a different way? If there is any doubt it is wise to ask the individual to clarify their intentions. Of course, the ideal situation would be to receive a clear written indication that leaves the recipient in no doubt about the employee’s intention to leave.

This leads to the question as to whether or not resignations have to be written or oral.  It is possible that resignations can be given orally however, based upon the case above, if this had of been the case it would have been very hard to have determined the true intentions leaving a great deal of the circumstances open to interpretation which can be tremendously difficult if litigation is required for both. 

Heat of the moment resignations are something that each the employee and employer should be cautious of.  Quite often a person will demonstrate their frustration at a particular situation at that moment, which is not in fact reflective of their true intentions, merely a protest march on what they are feeling at the specific time.  This can mean that shortly thereafter, the employee can ‘change’ their mind.  In the absence of any written resignation where the true intentions are then difficult to ascertain, this can lead to a fractious situation with neither party really able to know what to do next. 

Our Carrie-Ann Randall states “Terminating contracts can be a cause of much contention.  It is essential that an employer errs on the side of caution to remain lawful.  Thereafter, it is advisable that employers engage with the employee to make certain of their intentions.   Employees looking to resign should provide clear instructions as to the actual reason for the resignation.  In circumstances where the employee is terminating their employment as they feel they have no alternative to do so. It is advantageous that the full details as to why is contained within their resignation.  It is advisable to seek legal advice if you have any concerns relating to an employee’s resignation to avoid falling foul of such situation”

How can Lawson-West Solicitors help?

Lawson-West Solicitors have a very experienced Employment department and issues relating to resignations and termination of contracts are all too familiar.

With offices in Leicester, Wigston and Market Harborough our employment solicitors and lawyers can discuss your employment claim at location that suits you. We are a national provider of expert employment law advice and welcome a free discussion with you regarding your circumstances and potential claim.

If you believe you have a situation where you require free legal advice, please contact us on telephone 0116 212 1000 or 01858 445 480, alternatively fill in our Contact Us form and we will get in touch as soon as possible.


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