Resignations in the ‘heat of the moment’ 

In the recent case of Mrs Cope v Razzle Dazzle Costumes Ltd Mrs Cope, following a tense discussion at work, said “I’m done” and walked out of the building. She later submitted a sick note. Her employer treated her statement as a resignation and treated her as having resigned from her employment. She brought a claim of unfair dismissal.

The tribunal held that she had not resigned and found in her favour. They looked at the context in which Mrs Cope had said “I’m done” (a tense meeting), her anxious state and the fact that her actions after saying these words (in submitting a sick note) were not consistent with having resigned.

This case highlights the care that must be taken by employers before treating an employee as having resigned. Some pointers include:

  • Take care to look at the surrounding circumstances, any ambiguity with the words used and whether it could be regarded as being ‘in the heat of the moment’.
  • If you have concerns that the employee’s possible resignation was made in a temper or in the heat of the moment, then the law says you should give the employee a cooling-off period in which to consider their decision before accepting it. This need only be a few days maximum.
  • If the resignation is clear and unambiguous and has not been prompted by an emotive or highly-charged situation then you are able to accept it immediately. Once you have accepted it the resignation will stand unless you agree to its retraction.
Our Vista Learning Team provide effective workshops on the “Right to manage”. We examine the how and why “heat of the moment” decisions happen and how best to avoid escalations of emotion and reactive behaviours.

Our sessions include techniques to learn and practice to encourage a supportive and positive management style, to nip situations in the bud, draw a line in the sand, ask questions effectively and to manage and not bully. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

Sarah Walker, Employee Relations Trainer, Vista