“I quit!” What to do if an employee resigns

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

August 06 2019

There are some creative resignation stories out there. There’s the waiter who hired a barbershop quintet to sing “I’m quitting my job today” to his boss in front of the coffee shop’s customers. The fast food employee who announced he was quitting by writing a goodbye message on the restaurant’s 40-foot luminous street sign. And the air steward who gave a speech on the intercom, grabbed a beer from the in-flight trolley, activated the plane’s inflatable slide and departed. And it got me thinking…

The reality of resignations

These are all true stories, but they’re a far cry from the reality of resignations. There’s usually a lot less performance and a lot more paperwork. So, what should you do when one of your staff hands in their resignation? Let’s take a look…

Accepting employee resignations

First off, you can’t refuse a resignation. You may feel disappointed or frustrated, but you have no legal right to demand someone stays with your business. Be understanding, calm and professional—and not just because you’re a good boss, but because your business’s reputation depends on it, too. Staff can publish their experiences on employee review websites like Glassdoor, so handling a resignation badly could lead to a bad review. Prospective candidates often read these posts before applying for a job, so getting resignation right can boost your reputation and recruitment.

Notice period

When an employee doesn’t give notice, it’s called resigning with immediate effect. It can happen, but it’s an unlikely scenario. Almost all resignations will involve your staff serving a notice period, and there are two types:

1. Statutory notice This is the minimum legal notice required. If employed for more than one month, an employee needs to give you one week’s notice. If employed for less than one month, an employee employed doesn’t need to give you any notice.

2. Contractual notice This is the agreed notice period in your contract of employment—and it’s common for contractual notice to exceed statutory notice. If you haven’t included notice periods in your employee contracts, don’t worry. Peninsula helps you write employee contracts to protect your business.

Get it in writing

An employee will likely tell you they’re resigning through an initial conversation, but you need to get this in writing, too. A written resignation letter is especially important if an employee ‘quits’ in the heat of the moment, but later changes their mind when they calm down. If you hold them to their outburst, they could say they were forced out of the business—which puts you at risk of a constructive dismissal claim. You must also respond in writing, and it’s good practice to:

  • Use official business letterhead paper
  • State that you accept their resignation
  • Thank them for their service
  • Confirm the date of their final working day
  • Include any business-specific information, such as how to return any company property

Exit interview & questions

Exit interviews are not compulsory, but they give you a chance to understand and improve employee experience, which can benefit staff recruitment. However, it’s a good idea for someone impartial to hold the exit interview. That way, your employee feels comfortable talking about management if they want to.

But what if you want your employee to stay?

If you don’t want your employee to resign, let them you appreciate their work and you’re happy to make adjustments to keep them with you. Perhaps they’re leaving for a higher salary, a promotion, or more flexible work hours. Find out why they want to go—you may be able to go in with a counteroffer and encourage them to stay working in your business. And if an employee does decide to resign with a creative performance? Well, you’ve got a good resignation story out of it, too.

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