Resigning with immediate effect

  • Resignation
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

What happens when an employee resigns with immediate effect? This guide explains the processes you need in place and your legal standing should it occur.

It’s something we’ve all seen on TV shows and at the movies, the employee resigning immediately and waltzing off into the sunset. In the real world, it’s a much more serious and complex issue than light entertainment makes out. But what does happen when, out of the blue, an employee tells you that they’re resigning? Where does that leave your business and what can you do? This guide explains everything you need to know.

What is a resignation with immediate effect?

It’s where an employee tells you they’re resigning immediately—or hands a letter in. They’ll then leave on that day. Potentially even straight away. Employees often ask us, “Can I resign with immediate effect?” The reality is in most cases, no. The law states only those with less than one months’ service can give no notice to terminate their contract. Once an employee has more than one month of service with you, legally they must give one week’s notice to resign. Your employment contracts will usually give a longer notice period (i.e. one month). That notice period is critical for your business to train up a new member of staff. Or to make sure there's a comprehensive handover before your old employee leaves. An immediate resignation doesn’t allow you to do this.

What can you do with an immediate resignation?

If you receive a resignation letter with immediate effect, no notice is provided. You can accept the employee resigning with immediate effect (UK only, of course—this may vary across other countries). Essentially, this means the staff member leaves immediately. It can even by useful to your business if their behaviour was disruptive—or it’s easy to cover their role. You might refuse to accept the resignation and require the employee to work their notice. If they don’t then turn up, the employee resigning from work with immediate effect will breach their contract of employment. You can take them to court over that.

How to avoid immediate resignations

It makes good business sense to look at why an employee asks, “Can you resign with immediate effect?” If it happens, you can ask them the reasons for their decision. Additionally, their resignation letter may state some details. But remember that you may be in a position to help the employee stay in work. You could even prevent them leaving without any warning. An example here is if your employee is resigning with immediate effect due to bullying. Now they’ve brought this to your attention, you should investigate and take action on this issue. You can show the employee you’re doing so and ask them to stay. Remember too that a failure to act could lead to legal claims against you.

Stress-related departures

What about someone resigning with immediate effect due to stress? Again, if this is work-related stress you should have taken steps to prevent this. Now you know about it, you can meet with the employee and talk through any adjustments you can introduce, such as reducing their workload. This may help them reconsider their resignation. If you receive a resignation letter with immediate effect for personal reasons, there may not be a lot you can do to resolve the situation. But you can still meet with the staff member and ask them if you can support them at work. Flexibility or a period of time off may help them sort any issues and let them come back fully refreshed.

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Resignations are often a tricky and contentious issue for businesses and employees. For immediate assistance, contact us on 0800 028 2420.


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