With the upturn in some parts of the economy being translated into a more buoyant recruitment market, employers are likely to see an increase in staff turnover. This is a good time to review practices on how resignations, both planned and those given in the heat of the moment, are handled.

When an employee resigns, the first thing is to have a sensible, short conversation to understand the reasons for the decision and to discuss any practicalities. This should be followed up relatively quickly with an ‘acceptance of resignation’ letter clearly setting out the practical arrangements for the employee’s departure including the length of notice period, the last day of employment, how outstanding holiday is to be handled and when final payments are to be made. It should be noted that notice periods always start the day following the resignation. In addition, this is an ideal opportunity to remind employees of any contractual obligations they may have post termination e.g. confidentiality, intellectual property and restrictive covenants.

Exit interviews can be an excellent way of gaining candid information from employees on issues such as managerial relationships, recognition, reward and career development. These should be conducted two/three weeks after the resignation when the emotion of resigning has reduced but before the final week. The consistency of the interviews’ content and style is important because data can then be collected and compared and the individual conducting the meeting is impartial – the employee does not want to fear any repercussions for honest feedback.

What happens if a situation instigates an employee resigning in the heat of the moment? Although sometimes this can be seen as a blessing, employers need to be careful. In general, when an employee resigns, especially if they use unambiguous language such as ‘I quit’, they cannot then subsequently withdraw it without the employer’s agreement. However, Tribunals have identified ‘special circumstances’, such as where pressure has been placed on the employee or the individual employee’s action was out of character, where an employer should take further action before they rely on the resignation. In these cases, there should be a ‘cooling off’ period and then a discussion with the employee about what happened, the reason for their decision and whether or not they wish it to stand. If they still wish to resign, then the employee should be asked to provide this in writing. If an employee fails to return to work after such an incident, it is wise to write to them inviting them to discuss this before accepting their resignation in writing.

Employers should also look out for the veiled grievance in a resignation letter where an employee has stated that due to a particular situation/person they feel they have ‘no choice but to resign’. In these cases, the employer should offer to investigate the issues and put the employee’s decision on hold until after this is concluded. The employee may reject this offer but it is important that the employer has shown willing to address their concerns in case of any future action.

For assistance on managing employee relations contact Anita Wynne at Beststart HR on awynne@beststarthr.com or Tel: 01438 747 747.