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Were You Dismissed Or Did You Resign? Context is King

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

Before accepting an employee’s resignation, it is crucially important to be certain that that is their true intention. In one case, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that a letter in which a woman asked her manager to ‘please accept one month’s notice’ was ambiguous and did not amount to a resignation.

The woman, who was employed by an NHS trust, was not happy in the department in which she worked. She had received a conditional offer of a transfer to another department and, following an upsetting incident, had handed the brief letter to her manager. The transfer offer was subsequently withdrawn in view of her record of sickness absence and her employment with the trust was terminated after the manager purported to accept her resignation.

In upholding her unfair dismissal claim, the ET found that, taken in context, the letter was not a clear and unambiguous expression of a wish to resign her employment with the trust. The probability was that the manager had not understood it as such and that the woman had only intended to give notice of her wish to leave the department. The amount of her compensation remains to be assessed.

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