GF writes: One of our employees had an argument with a colleague and, in a fit of anger, handed in her notice. We accepted the resignation, but 48 hours later she changed her mind, saying the situation had affected her decision making. Unfortunately, we have already advertised the position internally. Do we have to accept her change of mind? 

Hasty resignations can cause headaches for employers and you should proceed with caution, writes Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula. What you can do depends on the circumstances of the case.

One important factor is the employee’s length of service. If she has sufficient service to claim unfair dismissal, you should tread more carefully. This is because refusal to consider an employee’s rescinded resignation could, in some circumstances, be seen as a constructive dismissal. This would result in the same sort of financial penalty as in a case of unfair dismissal.
You should also consider whether there is any discriminatory element in your actions. The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals who possess a protected characteristic—such as disability, race, age and so on—and a refusal to consider a rescinded resignation on grounds of one of the protected characteristics may constitute an act of discrimination.

In the same vein, the circumstances surrounding the argument would need to be investigated. Could the employee claim there was a discriminatory angle to it? If a grievance could be raised, you should consider whether to offer the grievance procedure to the employee, regardless of whether she is coming back or not.

Although not a legal consideration, you may want to think about what the employee is worth to you. Is she a good worker? If so, then this may be a good reason to allow her to take back the resignation. However, at the end of the day, if there are no contentious points, there is no legal requirement for you to accept her change of mind.