Employee resignation is one of several ways that an employment relationship can come to an end. While employers may have fewer legal obligations when an employee resigns than when an employee is terminated, it is still important for employers to observe certain best practices when they receive an employee’s letter of resignation.
A recent article in Forbes addressed this issue and stated from the outset that most leaders are handling employee resignations incorrectly. By handling these resignations incorrectly, employers are losing out on a potential “boomerang” (an employee that returns shortly after leaving for another position) or referral source. The article goes on to list three things employers should do when facing an employee’s resignation:
- Congratulate them on their new opportunity;
- Throw them a goodbye party; and
- Touch base with the recently departed employee somewhere around 30 to 60 days after their resignation.
In Ontario, the most important thing an employer should do when accepting an employee’s resignation is to accept it on the terms offered. In other words, if an employee has provided 2 weeks’ notice for their resignation, an employer should not accept the resignation and then tell the employee that they will no longer be needing their services and their employees will be ending that same day.
In the situation described above, the employee has no longer resigned but has instead been wrongfully dismissed. The employer would then be responsible for providing the employee with termination pay at least equal to the resignation notice the employee provided, if not greater.
The Forbes article does contain helpful advice for employers looking to have their resigning employee leave on amicable terms, in order to possibly use their services in the future or to retain them as a business referral source. Former employees can become excellent referral sources and even clients themselves.
Ontario employers should always act in good faith when receiving a resignation letter. An employer should never make any disparaging or defamatory comments to the employee or about the employee, and should absolutely not threaten to retaliate against the employee in any way for their resignation. This includes threatening to ensure the employee is no longer able to work in their industry, which would compromise an employee’s ability to earn an income, and would likely attract damages should the employer follow through on their threat.
A resignation must be voluntary, and it must be clear and unequivocal. This means that in any case where the employee’s resignation is in question, their words and actions at the time of resignation will be considered to determine whether they have unequivocally resigned. An employer cannot pressure or force an employee to give their resignation.
Additionally, if an employee resigns in the heat of an emotionally charged moment, their resignation will likely not be considered to be clear and unequivocal. Employers have a duty not to accept this type of spontaneous resignation without further inquiry.
Employees also have the right to rescind their resignation in the days immediately following the resignation, especially if they resigned in the heat of the moment. This is often referred to as the “cooling-off” period. However, any employee can rescind their resignation as long as the employer has not relied on their resignation to its detriment.
When it comes to resignation in Ontario, the most important piece of advice for both employers and employees is to act in a favourable manner.
Employment Lawyers in Toronto
Lecker & Associates is a team of highly skilled employment lawyers in Ontario with over 35 years of experience specializing in employment law. We represent and protect the best interests of employees and advocate on their behalf in employment-related matters and disputes. Contact us to learn about our team and how we can help you navigate your employment-related challenges.
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