By December 09 2015
Business Law

How to Accept an Employee's Resignation

What constitutes a resignation by an employee?

An offer to resign must be made in clear and unambiguous terms in order to be effective and binding on the employee. The test for determining whether an employee has resigned his position is an objective one.  Employers must ask themselves if a reasonable person would understand by the employee's words and actions that he had resigned.

Alberta Courts have repeatedly found that a purported resignation by an employee made in the heat of the moment may not be valid. Emotional or angry outbursts may not be a reasonable basis for an employer to conclude that an employee has resigned, even if the employee says the words "I quit". In such a situation, the onus is on the employer to not accept a spontaneous declaration by the employee without proper deliberation.

To offer his resignation, an employee must express more than an intention to resign at some point in the future. 

Where an employee makes an ultimatum whereby he threatens to resign if certain conditions are not met, this could constitute a resignation. However, the context in which the purported resignation is made is important.

Some of the factors Alberta Courts will consider in determining whether an employee has offered to resign are:

  • Whether the employee had previously offered his resignation
  • Whether the employee had previously expressed dissatisfaction with his position
  • Whether the employee had previously expressed an intention to continue working with the employer
  • Whether the employee specified a last day of work in his offer to resign
  • Whether the employee was agitated, emotional or upset at the time he purported to resign
  • Whether the employer contributed to the employee being agitated, emotional or upset

What does an employer have to do to accept an employee's offer of resignation?

Where an employee offers her resignation, it must be accepted by her employer. An employer should communicate acceptance of the offer in clear terms as soon as possible. Ambiguous actions by either party can taint the resignation and render it incomplete. If the employer acts as if the employee has not resigned by, for example, meeting with the employee to work out their differences, then it is unlikely that the employee's resignation has been accepted.

It is important for an employer to accept an employee's resignation before it has been revoked by the employee. An employee is free to revoke her resignation until it has been accepted by the employer. 

A resignation can be retracted verbally, and Courts will infer from an employee's conduct subsequent to the purported revocation whether revocation has in fact occurred.

Where an employer proceeds to terminate an employee who has not resigned, or has revoked her resignation, the employee will be in a strong position to bring a claim for wrongful dismissal against the employer.

Invitation for Discussion:

If you would like to discuss the topics raised herein or any other business law matter, please do not hesitate to contact one of the lawyers in the Business Law group at Nerland Lindsey LLP.


Note that the foregoing is for general discussion purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice to any one person or company. If the issues discussed herein affect you or your company, you are encouraged to seek proper legal advice.

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