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When does a resignation take effect?

30th April 2012

In order for both employers and individuals to know when the deadline for presenting a claim to the Employment Tribunal arises they both need to be sure of the date on which the employment ended. In the majority of cases this is obvious, but it is not always so.

Problems and confusion can arise when there is some sort of delay in the termination being communicated between the employer and employee.

The recent case of Horwood v Lincolnshire County Council addresses one situation that can cause confusion to employers and employees regarding identifying the effective termination date.

This case concerned an individual that resigned by letter. In that letter she stated that she was resigning with immediate effect. However, the employer received the letter on a different day. The employer wrote back to the individual informing her that her resignation was being taken as commencing on a later date (it would appear that this was more convenient to the empployer for payroll purposes).

A claim of constructive unfair dismissal was submitted by the former employee, based on the later termination date as stated by the former employer. The former employer argued that the claim had been brought out of time, ie past the 3 months time limit to submit a claim of unfair dismissal. The Employment Tribunal ruled that the claim had in fact been submitted out of time. The matter was then appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

The EAT observed that the effective date of termination is not a contract law issue, but is defined by statute for the purpose of assisting the management of a legislative system of employment rights, Tribunals and remedies. The individual in this case had expressed a clear intention to resign. The EAT concluded that it would be wrong and cause confusion if the resignation was subject to uncertainty, and that it would be wrong for the employer to be able to unilaterally alter the termination date.

Contrary to commonly held belief, employers do not have a right to refuse to accept a resignation. This must be correct, otherwise the employee would never be able to leave a particular job if his/her emplolyer were to repeatedly refuse to accept the resignation. This case makes it clear that the receipt by the employer of the resignation letter should be date on which the resignation is treated as having been communicated (unless of course the letter simply confirms an earlier verbal resignation). The case help clear up uncertainties that can arise over effective resignation dates.

At Hallett Employment Law Services Ltd we can give you clear advice on all the issues raised in this article, so if you need any help on this issue please do not hesitate to contact us.    

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