How to resign from employment

No matter how long you have been employed in a job, it’s a big step to tell your employer formally that you want to leave. To help you resign as smoothly as possible, we’ve put together this guide on resigning from your employment.

For further information on what happens during the notice period following your resignation, see our separate guide on Notice period when leaving your employment. 

What is a resignation?

A resignation is when you formally tell your current employer that you are leaving your position in the organisation. Where required this is followed by you working an official notice period after which you are no longer legally employed by the organisation.

Can you resign verbally as well as in writing?

You have a legal right to resign from your job either verbally or in written form. Most people choose to resign in writing as it ensures there is a written record of their resignation. 

Company employee handbooks and individual employment contracts normally specify written resignation, in which case you should follow that requirement.

Should you tell your employer if you’re thinking of resigning?

As an employee, you are under no contractual or legal obligation to tell your employer you are thinking of resigning. However, if you are unhappy in your current job and are thinking of leaving, it may be a good idea to raise with your line manager any issues you have, to see if they can be resolved or at least improved.

Ultimately, it remains your choice as to whether or not you tell them you are thinking of leaving. If you believe it could compromise your position and current job security, it may be best not to mention you want to leave, but instead to focus on improving your current work conditions if that’s possible.  

Can you withdraw your resignation?

You don’t have a legal right to withdraw your resignation unless your employment contract or employer allows you to retract your resignation, and you have resigned in accordance with your contract. 

If you change your mind after notifying your employer of your wish to resign, you must inform them as quickly as possible to see if a resolution can be found.

Can your employer refuse to accept your resignation?

An employer cannot refuse to accept your resignation, although they may try to persuade you to stay if you haven’t yet formally resigned (see more on this below). 

Once you have submitted your formal notice of resignation, you must be allowed to work until the end of your notice period with normal pay. 

Alternatively, if your employer wants you to leave immediately, they must pay you for the notice period, along with any outstanding benefit payments that may be due.

When does a resignation take effect?

A resignation begins from the date of resignation stated in your resignation letter and ends on the last day of your notice period which should also be stated in your letter (See more about writing a resignation letter below).

What does ‘effective date of resignation’ mean?

You may have come across the phrase ‘effective date of resignation’. Unless stated differently in your contract of employment, this refers to the date of your resignation as stated in your resignation letter  Your notice period will begin the day after you resign. 

What’s an ‘effective date of termination’ (EDT)?

The effective date of termination – commonly referred to just as EDT – is when your period of employment officially comes to an end. This will be the last day of your notice period, after which you will no longer be officially employed by the organisation.

Can or should you resign ‘with immediate effect?’

Your ability to resign with immediate effect will depend on a few different factors. For example, if you have a fixed contract and you finish work on the last day of your contract, you are entitled to do that, without giving any notice period. Or if you have been employed for less than one month, and your contract does not prevent you from doing so, you may be able to resign immediately.

Before taking this decision, you should also consider the possible financial implications it could have. Depending on the payment terms of your employment and how long you have worked for the company your early departure could lead to a loss in earnings. 

If you do decide to resign immediately, always check the terms of your contract before informing your employer, because if you breach your contract your employer could make a legal claim against you for losses they have suffered as a result of your action.

Are you sure about resigning?

If you have landed an excellent new job, and are happy with the terms outlined in your new contract of employment, then you will be as sure as you can be about resigning from your current employment.

In any other circumstances, however, you should consider your options carefully.  Below are a few questions you might like to consider before resigning:

 

1. Can your current work conditions be improved?

Before resigning, consider if there is any way in which your role or your feelings about your company could be improved. This may not always be possible, depending on the reason you want to leave. 

However, if the issue(s) can be addressed and remedied, it’s a good idea to explore them informally in the first place with your line manager (or another senior person).  It may be that one or two small changes could make all the difference and entice you to stay. 

If you’ve already tried that and not succeeded, then you could consider raising a formal grievance which, if found in your favour, might encourage you to stay.

2. Should you resign if you want to negotiate a financial settlement?

If you want to negotiate financial compensation for poor treatment your employer has subjected you to and then to leave with a settlement agreement,   then it’s best to conclude your negotiations rather than to resign before you have settled. 

Your resignation will become part and parcel of the agreement, but if you have had good legal advice, you are most likely to end up with a financial package which you couldn’t possibly have achieved by just resigning. (See our separate guide on negotiating settlement agreements.)

3. Are you resigning for the right reasons?

Take some time to think about the reasons why you’re thinking of resigning,  what you would like to do next and the steps you can realistically take towards achieving your goals.

Try to avoid making any rash or impulsive decisions in reaction to your feelings. This is particularly important if you will become unemployed when you’ve left your job and the job market is not very buoyant. Ultimately, you do not want to do anything you may regret at a later date.

If, however, you feel things have got so bad for you in your place of work that you feel you have no choice but to resign, then you may have a claim for constructive dismissal and should seek advice on your best course of action.

 

Badly treated at work? Don't resign yet!

When you resign, what notice period should you give?

The notice period you have to give to your employer when you resign will depend on how long you have been employed and the terms of your contract of employment.

Generally, if you have been employed for less than one month, then no notice has to be given unless stated otherwise in your contract of employment.

Where you have been employed for more than one month you will have to give at least one week’s notice – the notice period may be longer depending on your employment contract.

If you want to give less notice than the legal minimum, or less than that stated in your contract, you can ask your employer if they will reduce it. In return, you can agree to finish any outstanding or urgent work and tell them that by allowing you to leave early they may also save some money.

What are your rights during your notice period?

Once you have submitted your resignation you are entitled to receive your normal pay until your notice period ends. This will also include any sick leave you take, as well as maternity pay.

If agreed to by your employer, you may be able to go on paid holiday and you will also be entitled to payment in lieu of any outstanding holidays you have accrued up to the first 28 days of your holiday entitlement.

Are there any alternatives to working my resignation notice period?

There are several alternatives to working your notice period.  They include being placed on garden leave for your notice period, pay in lieu of notice (PILON), and taking accrued holiday during your notice period. 

See our guide on Notice period when leaving employment for an outline of all three, and our more detailed guides for further information on Garden leave and PILON (click the links). 

Can you resign when you’re on sick leave?

You can resign if you are on sick leave, as being absent from work due to ill health does not prevent you from leaving your job. You should follow the procedure set out in your contract of employment as normal. As stated above, you will also be entitled to sick pay during your notice period, whether that is the full or statutory rate, depending on your contract terms.

See also our guide on Sick pay in your notice period for more detail.

How should you write a resignation letter or email?

You can offer your resignation in writing in either letter or email form. When writing your resignation letter, be sure to:

  • Follow your contract of employment guidelines: Ensure the resignation details are in line with your contractual agreement. Not only does this protect you legally, but it demonstrates you have thought through your decision. If your contract doesn’t give you the level of detail you need, see if it is set out in your organisation’s employee handbook.

 

  •  Keep it short: A resignation letter should be short and to the point, covering only the essential details. If you wish to expand on the reasons, speak separately with your employer.

 

  • Remain professional: Regardless of whether you have had a good or bad relationship with your employer, ensure the tone you use in your letter is formal and professional.

 

Resignation letter outline

When writing your resignation letter or email, be sure to include the following:

 

  • Your Address: Your address/contact details at the top of the letter.
  • Date: Include the date of writing at the top of your letter, below your address/contact details. ·       
  • Employer’s name and address: On the left-hand side, beneath the date, add your line manager’s name, the company name and full business address. Alternatively, address the letter to the person or role at the business address given in your contract of employment or employee handbook.
  • Opening greeting: Start the letter with “Dear” followed by the name of your line manager or another person to whom the letter should be addressed.
  • Reason for resignation: You can choose either to explain why you wish to resign, or simply to state your intention to resign. If you’re offering an explanation, keep it brief, focusing on one main reason, and avoid any negative language.
  • Date of resignation: Then state the date from which your resignation will take effect, and also the official date you believe will be your last day of employment with the company. 
  • Your intentions during your notice period: Tell the addressee what your intentions/wishes are with respect to your notice period – for example, that you will work your full notice period, or would like a shorter notice period. 
  • Thank your employer: Depending on the reasons for your resignation, you may also want to thank your manager and company. This is not a formal requirement. If you choose not to include it, simply sign off.
  • Signing off: End the resignation letter by using either “Regards”, or “Yours sincerely” and include your full name underneath.

 

How should you hand in your formal resignation? 

If you are in a dispute or are not on particularly good terms with your employer,  or if you are off sick or for other reasons can’t attend a meeting to discuss your resignation, then you can send your resignation letter through the post (recorded delivery) or as an email attachment.

If you are still on good terms with your employer, it can help to meet with your line manager when you are ready to hand in your notice. Tell them of your intentions before you announce it to your colleagues. Don’t hand over your resignation letter just yet.

Your employer may recognise that it’s time for you to move on, In that case they will accept your resignation and will probably want to focus on such practicalities as your notice period and the hand over of your roles and responsibilities to someone else (see below for more).

If you haven’t already sent your resignation letter, you can hand it in either at this meeting or shortly afterwards.

What to do if your employer asks you not to resign?

If your employer really doesn’t want you to leave, they may offer you incentives to stay, such as a promotion, pay increase or other benefits.  If they do that, it’s worth asking for a day or so to reflect on their offer.

If you do decide to stay, consider carefully the benefits you are being offered.  Ask for them in writing before you make a final decision and make sure they really are benefits that will make it worth your while staying. You could try negotiating for improved enhancements, but be careful not to push your luck too far!

Things to do during your resignation notice period

Once you have formally notified your employer of your resignation and if you will be working your notice period, there are a few things you should do in order to prepare for your exit, including the following

  • Inform your colleagues that will be leaving. 
  • If you are in a management position, start to organise a handover with the relevant person. 
  • For anyone not in a management role, consult your line manager about starting a handover. 
  • For employees moving to a new job, you can confirm your start date with your new employer.
  • Speak with your current employer’s HR/finance department to confirm details of outstanding monies related to holiday pay, bonuses, commission, pension/insurance schemes etc.
  •  If you have any company equipment or materials at home, check with HR/finance of procedures to return them when you leave.
  • Lastly, complete an exit interview if one is necessary for your organisation. This will give you an opportunity to provide feedback on your experience working there.

Next steps

Resigning from your job can be painless and exciting. But it can be traumatic and stressful, particularly if you have become embroiled in a dispute with your employer and/or have felt obliged to resign because you’ve been ill-treated.

If you find yourself in the latter situation then get in touch with our legal team at Monaco Solicitors.  We are specialist employment lawyers who represent employees only.  We may be able to help you negotiate a significantly better financial exit package than any you’ve been offered so far. You may also be surprised how affordable our services can be!  

If you would like a no-obligation consultation about your options, contact us via this link, or by phone 020 7717 5259, or email [email protected] 

We look forward to hearing from you.

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