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Ambiguous Resignations – Who Really Ends the Contract of Employment

A recent decision of the UK’s Employment Appeals Tribunal has upheld a decision confirming that a claimant who resigned was in fact unfairly dismissed.

The claimant was employed in the records department at a hospital where she had been experiencing difficulties for a time. In view of this, the claimant applied to be transferred to the radiology department within the same hospital. The claimant’s application was successful and she was offered a new position in the radiology department. The offer was however conditional upon the hospital carrying out a number of pre-appointment checks.

Prior to her appointment to her new position, she was involved in an altercation with another member of staff in the records department. Following the incident, the claimant handed in a letter of resignation to the records department as she was adamant that she would soon be starting her new role in the radiology department. However, the offer of the new position was withdrawn on the basis of her sick leave record and the claimant immediately sought to retract her resignation form the records department. The Hospital refused to accept her retraction and confirmed that her employment would terminate at the end of her notice period.

The claimant initially brought a claim for constructive dismissal but following legal advice she amended her claim to assert that she had been directly and unfairly dismissed by the Hospital.

The UK Employment Appeals Tribunal found that the letter of resignation left a significant amount of doubt as to whether the claimant had given notice to leave the records department or whether she had given notice to leave her employment.

The question the Employment Appeals Tribunal asked was “Who really ended the contract of employment?” In summary the Employment Appeals Tribunal looked at the following in order to arrive at their conclusion.

Resignations must be viewed against the backdrop of the circumstances upon which they are given and in the event that circumstances exist which would lead an employer to consider whether a resignation was in fact intended, ignoring those circumstances may lead to a finding of a dismissal of an employee and not simply the acceptance of a resignation.


For any queries, please contact Anne O’Connell Solicitors at info@aocsolicitors.ie or +353 1 6698550
28th September 2018

Anne O’Connell
Fitzwilliam Hall
Fitzwilliam Place
Dublin 2

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