Can an employee sue if their employer refuses to accept a retracted resignation?

The short answer is yes.  In East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust v Levy, an Administrative Assistant was working in the records department and subsequently received a job offer for a role in another department.  She sent a letter to her manager stating, “Please accept one month’s notice from the above date.” The job offer was then withdrawn and the Claimant sought to retract her “notice of resignation.”  The employer refused and she was dismissed. She successfully sued for unfair dismissal.

The Tribunal held (and the EAT agreed) that the employee’s notice was ambiguous.  It was not clear from her resignation letter whether she simply intended to give notice of an internal transfer to another department or to resign from her employment completely.  By not permitting the employee to retract her resignation, the employer had unfairly dismissed the employee.

This case provides a cautionary lesson to employers in the importance of obtaining an unambiguous resignation from an employee in writing.   Relying on an unclear resignation and subsequently preventing an employee from retracting their resignation could result in an employee issuing costly Tribunal proceedings and a Tribunal finding that they have been unfairly dismissed.