The importance of having a clear procedure for handling an employee’s notice of resignation is vital in order to avoid any misunderstanding and miscommunication and enable the business to move forward in the most productive manner.
A case study recently a worker who announced that she wanted to leave her current job role and move internally within the business to a new department learnt the importance of a correctly worded redundancy letter. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) found that her resignation letter was ambiguously worded and therefore had not actually resigned.
Patricia Levy was employed by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust between the period of 2006 and 2016 as an assistant administrator. Throughout her tenure, Levy had experienced some difficulties whilst at the records department such as problems with a co-worker and needing an official meeting with the hospital’s operational manager regarding her absence record.
Following her issues within the department, Levy applied for a new position within radiology within the same trust. This move had been accepted by the trust subject to pre-engagement checks in June 2016. Levy handed in a letter to her manager that stated, “Please accept one month’s notice from the above date”. Subsequently, her manager replied to the letter on the same day stating that he accepted the letter from Levy and her last day of work.
However, the process of resignation became confused after the manager did not fill out a staff termination form, as she was not leaving the trust but just moving departments. Additionally, he did not make any comment on the fact that the assistant administrator was quitting her employment more generally, such as her accrued leave.
Six days later, Levy discovered that the job offer from the radiology department had been withdrawn. The unofficial reasoning behind this was the fact that her absence record caused issues for the hiring team. After Levy found this out, she had the desire to return to her position of assistant administrator. However, the HR team within the trust advised the manager that he was under no obligation to allow Levy to return to retract her resignation and return to work. After considering the advice given, the manager decided to not allow Levy to return which meant that her employment ended in July 2016.
Following the refusal to allow her to return to work, Levy filed a constructive unfair dismissal claim in September 2016. However, levy sought legal advice and after this, she changed her complaint to one claiming that she was directly dismissed.
Ashford Employment Tribunal accepted Levy’s claim after they found that her resignation letter was unclear as to whether she was leaving the records department or resigning from the trust in its entirety. The Employment Tribunal also found that the Foundation Trust had taken it to mean Levy was quitting the department.
After the ruling from the tribunal, the trust appealed the decision, but the EAT dismissed the appeal. While the EAT did acknowledge that usually giving notice would mean leaving the employer, they said that Levy’s circumstances were not typical as she was leaving the department rather than the entire company and in the letter, she was not entirely clear who she intended to leave.
Paul Holcroft the Associate Director of Croner said that although there were very specific facts within the Levy case, it did “highlight the value of clarifying the intentions of an employee where they are ambiguous” (People Management, 2018). The employee’s letter could be read in numerous different ways, therefore offering no opportunity for the employer to understand what Levy really wanted to do.
This case study highlights the importance of a clear and professional resignation process in order to protect your company from any misunderstandings.
If you have any queries regarding this article then please do not hesitate to contact one of the HPC team:
T: 0844 800 5932