It is crucial to have a clear understanding of an employee’s intentions before you presume that they have resigned, as demonstrated by a recent employment tribunal decision.

Mrs Cope in the Cope v Razzle Dazzle Costumes Limited case, made a threat to take sick leave and resign if she was required to collaborate with a co-worker who had accused her of bullying.

Mrs Cope suffered from anxiety and was highly distressed, went to the office the following day to speak to the business owner but they were not there. After leaving her keys on the counter, she made a hand gesture to convey that she was finished and also stated “I’m done.”

Later, she texted the business owner: “Sorry to bother you at home. I couldn’t wait earlier to speak to you I tried but I couldn’t stay there any longer. My nerves are shot. Never in my whole life have I ever been made to feel like this..”. Mrs Cope was assumed to have resigned by the business owner, but she later submitted a fit note and apologized for leaving work, asking to come back but her request was denied on the grounds that she was thought to have resigned.

The Tribunal had to decide if Mrs Cope had resigned or not. Considering the circumstances and the extent of her anxiety and how upset she was they decided that she did not resign. As a result, the employer was liable for unfair and wrongful dismissal.

This case serves as a valuable reminder of the principles surrounding resignation:

  • Always be clear and direct when giving notice, even if the law doesn’t require it. Sometimes saying you quit during a heated moment doesn’t count as actually quitting, so employers should give employees some time to calm down before making any decisions.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s important to:

  • Make sure you follow any rules about giving notice in your contract.
  • If you’re not sure whether an employee has really quit, ask them to confirm before you do anything.
  • Be careful if an employee quits because of pressure or strong emotions, and give them a chance to change their mind if it makes sense.

If you need any employment law advice around this topic, email

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