Q- A client rang me after having an argument with a member of staff. Apparently, the employee walked out saying they weren’t going to come back. Has the employee resigned?
A-The workplace is often an emotive place and it is therefore not uncommon for employees to react angrily to certain situations. Employers should be advised to act with caution if a member of staff walks out of work angrily after an argument and says they are not coming back. Even though individuals may claim they wish to leave their job during this walk out, this action is not the same as a resignation and should not be treated as such.
ACAS guidance on the matter reminds us that it is not a legal requirement for a resignation to be written and that they may be given verbally. However, it is important that in resignation scenarios both the employee and the employer are comfortable the resignation was made in a clear and considered manner. It is not always possible to be certain of true intentions following an angry walkout.
In this situation, the employer should allow the employee to have a ‘cooling off’ period before contacting them to discuss the situation. Once tempers have cooled, it will be important for your client to confirm whether the employee wants to resign. It may be the case that the employee has had time to consider the situation and now wants to return to work.
It is important that your the employer makes the effort to contact the employee to clarify the situation, especially if the employee is particularly hot-headed or young. Not doing so, or insisting the resignation should stand against the employee’s wishes, could be deemed as a dismissal which will entitle the employee to bring a claim to a tribunal if they have the required length of service.
Additionally, the employer should investigate what caused the employee to react so angrily in the first instance. If the employee was reacting to unsafe working conditions or to being the victim of workplace harassment, then they may have the right to bring a claim to a tribunal. Especially if the employer doesn’t take any action to resolve the matter.
The employer should always exercise a measured approach when addressing the issue of staff walkouts. It is important that employees are always allowed an opportunity to rethink their actions and return to work wherever possible. To prevent such instances occurring in the future it would be wise to ensure employees are aware of the company’s grievance procedures so they can formally raise any complaints they may have.