Making your mind up time – is it common for individuals to resign from a position and then withdraw that resignation?

Written on 12 May 2015

Nigel Farage continues to make headlines as the parties seek to get their houses back in order post the General Election. Last week he resigned as leader of UKIP having failed to win his seat and his party only securing one seat in the House of Commons. This was despite UKIP overall receiving the third largest number of votes cast in the General Election, indeed significantly more than the SNP. However yesterday UKIP rejected his resignation.

So why is this interesting to employers?

There was a piece on the Today programme this morning where Heather McGregor at executive head-hunters Taylor Bennett suggested it is not uncommon for people in business to resign and then withdraw their resignation.

However, as Julian Hemming, partner comments:

“That is not my experience. First of all, if someone resigns in accordance with their employment contract by giving the proper notice, their resignation can only be withdrawn if they choose to withdraw it and the employer accepts the withdrawal. It is not open for an employer simply to refuse to accept a valid resignation. Furthermore, in most cases when someone resigns, employers generally accept the resignation, however reluctantly, because it is indicative that the resigning individual’s heart is not in the job. I do have experience of successful withdrawals of resignations, but they are rare.”

So what should employers do?

  • When a resignation is received, employers should consider very carefully whether or not they wish to try and persuade the employee to stay. Whilst there may be good business reasons for seeking to retain them in the business, will it come at a financial cost and will this send the wrong message to other employees? Is the resigning individual’s heart really in the job going forward or are they just biding their time waiting for the next opportunity?
  • The more tricky situation will be where an employee seeks to withdraw their resignation. Employers must proceed with caution, particularly where a resignation has been made in the heat of the moment. Employers should remember that where an employee has validly resigned they will not have the right to unilaterally withdraw their resignation. And whilst the employee may have genuine reasons for changing their mind, for example they are no longer relocating to another area of the country, it may be necessary for an employer to explain that matters have already moved on within the company. Has recruitment started? Have headcount and finances been adjusted? Again, it will be important to send a message to other employees that withdrawal will only be accepted in very limited circumstances.
  • Whenever an employee resigns, employers should also consider if there is an underlying reason which could give rise to a claim in the Employment Tribunal such as unfair dismissal or discrimination. For these reasons “exit interviews” are often worthwhile to establish the real reason for a resignation and to give the employer an opportunity to remedy any errors that may have caused the employee to resign.