Resignations In Haste

This blog provides advice regarding how to respond to possibly contentious resignations.


Sometimes following the application of formal procedures or a heated exchange of views a member of staff may submit a letter of resignation or announce that they are quitting. Equally you may receive a letter or email of resignation out of the blue which contains expressions of concern about how they perceive they have been treated and the fact that they felt they had no other option but to resign.

Don’t do it

At first glance it may appear to be tempting to accept the resignation and indeed your inclination may be to do so.  Things are of course rarely that simple in HR management.


Judgements of Employment Tribunals indicate that they consider the ‘special circumstances’ surrounding a resignation and what a ‘reasonable employer’ would have done.

If a member of staff has verbally stated, they are resigning and left the building in a state of anger. The advice is to allow a brief cooling off period and then contact them to verify their intentions. If they state that they still want to resign to ask for written confirmation.

Similarly, a letter or email stating that the member of staff wishes to resign with immediate effect should be responded to with a cooling off period and the offer of a meeting. A meaningful attempt should be made to engage with and resolve any concerns raised.

Aggrieved or not

During any discussions regarding the concerns raised in the letter you need to clarify whether the employee intends to raise a grievance or bullying and harassment complaint. Even if they still intend to resign and serve their notice period, they can raise a grievance.

The first stage in a grievance or bullying and harassment complaint is to seek to resolve the situation informally. If the employee has left by the time you investigate the grievance/complaint it is possible to follow a foreshortened procedure rather than that detailed in the Grievance Procedure. If they decide to remain in your employment you will, of course, follow your full Grievance Procedure, as appropriate.

For our customer establishments we have a model Grievance Procedure which incorporates the Bullying and Harassment Procedure. We also have model letters available for your use when you receive a potentially contentious resignation.