Unfair Dismissal

Signing a large book at a desk

Heat of the Moment Decisions – Potential Unfair Dismissal

As employer’s we have all experienced employees who have threatened to leave or have decided after an incident or during a meeting, that they have “had enough” and said I am leaving, or just leave for the day. As an employer it is not always clear if someone has resigned – it is often a “heat of the moment” conversation/dispute which can result in drastic action.

Employee’s will also tell us that their manager has told them they have no future in the company, and therefore decide to leave. What we find is that if you dig a little deeper you will see that there has been ambiguous language or poor/no process.

What should employer’s do if faced with these types of situations?

If an employee resigns in the heat of the moment, even putting this in an email at the same time; it is recommended that the employer talks with the employee to confirm that this is really their intention. Ideally allow the employee to think about their decision, at least overnight or longer depending on the circumstances and then speak to them and confirm back in writing the discussion.

In Cope v Razzle Costumes Ltd, after some issues with the workplace and poor health, the employee Ms Cope tried to ring the wife of the owner, she was not available, so the employee left her keys on the desk and told the sales manager “I’m done”. The sales manager told the owner and they assumed she had resigned. The owner did not check this with Ms Cope and relied on the sales manager’s comments. The Employment Tribunal upheld Ms Cope’s Unfair Dismissal claim, the employer had been too keen to accept the resignation, as managing the ongoing dispute with her colleague was going to be difficult.

This is very important if the employee has more than 2 years’ service or is potentially going to raise a claim regarding other matters, such as discrimination.

Employer’s need to have clear processes in place to support managers and employees if there is a conflict or dispute. Employer’s processes should be at least complying with the ACAS code.  The owner/manager should remain calm and should not use any words that could imply that they are thinking of dismissing the employee. If a manager does say something in the heat of the moment, then a quick retraction of the statement, confirming this in writing will support the fact that what was said was not their intention.

One example of this is in the case of Yule v Health Hut Professionals Ltd, the tribunal confirmed that Ms Yule had been unfairly dismissed, Ms Yule was awarded £10,000, which also included a 25% uplift of failure to comply with the ACAS code.

Guildford HR support business owners and managers in how to manage difficult situations and ensure the ACAS code relating to dismissal is adhered to.  If you need support regarding this matter please contact us.

Source: HR Inner Circular March 2023