Why a verbal resignation is only worth the paper it is printed on!

Why a verbal resignation is only worth the paper it is printed on!

May 11, 2022

We recently dealt with a case where an employee remarked as she was going on maternity leave, that she intended to resign and would not be back.

Simples, thought the boss!

Now 9 months later the manager has received an email from the employee saying that she wants to return to her job at the end of her ordinary and additional maternity leave, 52 weeks.

As you might expect based on what the employee had said to her employer, they had increased the hours of another long-serving employee to cover her duties, without saying whether it was permanent or not.

So, can the employer tell the employee that she has resigned and no longer has a job to come back to?

There are several questions as HR Consultants we will ask in such a situation:

  • What does it say in your contract/employee handbook about how an employee should tender a resignation?
  • Did the employee provide written confirmation of their intention to resign?
  • Did you follow it up in writing or by email if the employee did not?
  • Was it witnessed by anyone who can corroborate the verbal resignation?
  • Is there any other evidence available?

If it cannot be shown to be anything more than a comment, then the employee who is on maternity leave is entitled to return to work. This would be to her old role during ordinary maternity leave or to her role in additional maternity leave wherever possible or another suitable role on terms no less favourable than those previously enjoyed.

Saying no, means that as an employer you may face a discrimination claim.

To summarize, if an employee gives you their verbal resignation ensure you do the following:

  1. Do not assume a comment is binding and people always mean what they say.
  2. If an employee says they want to resign, get it in writing.
  3. If you get nothing within a few days, politely chase it up.
  4. If there’s still nothing you write or email and set out your position and how this affects them.
  5. Do not assume “all’s well” and carry on without first making sure.

If you need any assistance with any aspect of managing employees, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01527 909436.

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