‘Heat of the Moment’ Resignation

By Abbie McDonald

Trainee Solicitor

In the fast-paced world of work, employees often find themselves caught in the intense heat of the moment, prompting impulsive decisions. Resigning in response to workplace stress or conflict might seem appealing at the time, but it is crucial to consider the broader implications.

In a recent case, Omar v Epping Forest District Citizens Advice, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘EAT’) challenged a tribunal’s decision regarding the validity of a claimant’s ‘heat of the moment’ resignation and its implications on pursuing an unfair dismissal claim.

The claimant in this case resigned during a heated exchange with his manager. Attempting to retract the resignation later, he argued that it had been in the ‘heat of the moment’. The respondent disagreed, leading to termination of his employment. The claimant claimed unfair dismissal, however, the tribunal found that the resignation should stand and the employee was denied any compensation.

Overturning the tribunal’s decision, the EAT provided comprehensive guidance on the intricacies surrounding ‘heat of the moment’ resignations. The key takeaways include:

  • Once a notice of resignation is effectively given, it cannot be unilaterally retracted.
  • Words of resignation should be examined objectively, considering all the circumstances of the case.
  • The circumstances that may be considered include anything that would have affected the way in which the language used would have been understood by a reasonable bystander.
  • The subjective understanding of the recipient is relevant but not determinative.
  • Mere expression of an intention to resign in the future is insufficient. The reasonable bystander must understand from the words used that the speaker is actually resigning.
  • The reasonable bystander must feel that the resignation was ‘seriously meant’, ‘really intended’ or ‘conscious and rational’.
  • You should assess whether the words reasonably appear to have been ‘really intended’ at the point in time that they were said.
  • Evidence about what happened afterwards is relevant, but the longer the time that elapses, the more likely it is that the evidence will be of a subsequent impermissible change of mind.
  • It is a question of fact, for the tribunal in each case, which side of the line a case falls.

While the ‘heat of the moment’ may tempt some to make drastic decisions like resigning, it is crucial to weigh the consequences carefully. Employers and employees alike are urged to approach resignations with caution.

If you are involved in a ‘heat of the moment’ resignation, please contact our Employment Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form for more information and a member of our Team will be very happy to assist.