Can An Employee Withdraw Their Resignation?

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Home > Blog > Can An Employee Withdraw Their Resignation?

An employee may choose to resign from their job at any time and this resignation must be accepted by their employer.

When an employee resigns, they are usually required to formalise their decision by giving written notice, even if they have previously offered their resignation verbally.

In most cases, employees resign to pursue a role elsewhere, because they are relocated interstate or overseas, taking time off to travel or study or other reasons that will see them part amicably.

However, there are times when an employee resigns impulsively because of an incident in the workplace, an issue with workplace culture, their workload or a personal matter, which might lead them to quickly regret their decision to leave.

So, can an employee withdraw their resignation?

Heat of the moment resignations

Typically, resignations made by employees are accepted as final. In some cases, however, a resignation may be made in the heat of the moment under stressful circumstances in which people are confused, emotionally drained or otherwise at their wit’s end with a workplace situation, something happening in their personal life, or a combination of both. These types of resignations are known as ‘heat of the moment’ resignations, and for these, there are some exceptions.

When a resignation is made in the heat of the moment, an employer should enquire as to whether the employee is serious about their intentions and provide them with the opportunity to cool off and rescind their resignation. The cooling off period may be any amount of time, commensurate with the circumstances surrounding the resignation.

An employee’s mental state when they resign

Some resignations are not made ‘in the heat of the moment’ but are made under stressful circumstances, in which an employee may tender their resignation. It is important that the employer consider the mental state of the employee when they resign to ascertain if the employee truly seeks to sever ties or if it is a mere cry for help or an irrational decision based on their impaired mental state.

If an employee withdraws their resignation a reasonable time later and the employer does not accept this, it may give rise to a claim being made with the Fair Work Commission. The Commission will assess the actions of the employer and the mental state of the employee at the time they resigned, as well as at the time they sought to withdraw their resignation, so employers would be wise to ensure that sudden resignations are genuine before accepting them.

Employers should seriously consider whether stress, confusion, illness, a workplace argument or the organisational culture forced the employee’s hand and compelled them to resign. Even if the employee does not withdraw their resignation, any resignation tendered under unusual circumstances – particularly if the employee does not have a new role lined up – should not be accepted until the employer is sure the employee’s intentions were genuine.

If you are an employee or employer who needs guidance on the implications of a resignation made under stressful circumstances, our experienced HR Consultants in Cairns can assist.