EAT Sides with Employee Who Gave a Verbal Resignation “in the heat of the moment” and was Dismissed; Case to be Reheard in ET

An employee who gave a verbal resignation in the ‘heat of the moment’ initially, unsuccessfully claimed he was unfairly dismissed. The employment tribunal at the hearing held he’d resigned and rejected his claims. However, an employment appeals tribunal has since ruled the correct approach wasn’t taken at the first hearing.

As such, they’ve sent the case back to the employment tribunal to consider principles neglected from their original decision. Below, we discuss what happened in the case, and whether verbal resignations are valid.

If you’ve faced similar circumstances and are unsure how to proceed, contact Redmans Solicitors today. We are employment law specialists with years of experience and could advise on your possible next steps.

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Employee Quits “in the Heat of the Moment”

In the case of Mr R Omar v Epping Forest District Citizens Advice, Mr Omar began working for the legal advice centre on 22 February 2016. He was employed as an Advice Session Supervisor and, at the termination of his employment, worked under his line manager, Ms Skinner.

On 3 and 5 February 2020, Mr Omar was unhappy about various things and provided his verbal resignation. On each occasion, Ms Skinner advised him to calm down and explained she wouldn’t accept it. 

However, on 19 February, after an incident concerning Mr Omar’s holidays, he swore at Ms Skinner and said he’d quit. This time, Ms Skinner accepted his verbal resignation. Later that day, the CEO met with them to discuss if they could continue working together, and Mr Omar said he could.

Things changed on 21 February, though, when the CEO informed Mr Omar that Ms Skinner had decided she couldn’t work with him. As a result, the CEO explained, “His resignation still stood”, and Mr Omar agreed to put this in writing.

Yet, on 23 February, Mr Omar emailed the CEO outlining his desire to retract his verbal resignation. Unfortunately, this wasn’t accepted, and he worked his notice until his employment’s termination on 18 March 2020. During this time, Mr Omar pursued an internal grievance, which wasn’t upheld, leading to his unfair and wrongful dismissal claims.

EAT Rules ET Didn’t Take Correct Approach Concerning Verbal Resignation

As previously mentioned, the employment tribunal at the initial hearing held Mr Omar had resigned, meaning they dismissed his claims. This was despite Mr Omar outlining how he’d only given his resignation in the ‘heat of the moment’, making it ineffective. He claimed his employer couldn’t rely on his verbal resignation as it came during a “special circumstance exception”.

Therefore, he turned to an employment appeals tribunal, which resulted in a successful appeal. The appeals tribunal explained the correct approach hadn’t been taken in the initial hearing and sent the case back. Furthermore, they asked the original tribunal to consider principles established in similar previous cases and apply them appropriately. Such principles include:

  • What the ‘reasonable bystander’ would conclude the words of the resigning employee to mean
  • Whether the decision to resign was intended
  • That resignations provided during the ‘heat of the moment’ aren’t a “special circumstances exception”

Are Verbal Resignations Valid?

Following the case above, employers and employees may question whether a verbal resignation is valid. Several factors need to be considered for a resignation made orally to be valid.

One such factor is the contract of employment. If this requires notice to be put in writing, the employer should ask the employee to do so. However, an oral resignation will suffice if this isn’t the case.

Furthermore, if an employer doubts whether an employee has resigned, they should speak with the individual. This includes if a resignation is provided during the ‘heat of the moment’. Should an employer treat this resignation as final, it could lead to unfair dismissal claims. Therefore, providing a ‘cooling-off’ period and understanding the employee’s intentions can help avoid legal action.

Yet, it will be valid if an employee’s oral resignation is contractually compliant, clear, unambiguous and doesn’t involve special circumstances. This is still the case even if the employer attempts to refuse the resignation.

If you’ve provided a verbal resignation in the ‘heat of the moment’ and believe you were subsequently unfairly dismissed, contact us today. Redmans Solicitors can discuss your circumstances and discover your eligibility to claim compensation.

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