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Tribunal erred in its interpretation of resignation given in the 'heat of the moment'

on Friday, 24 November 2023.

In a recent decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has offered a useful review of the authorities on 'heat of the moment' resignations and dismissals.


In the case of Omar v Epping Forest District Citizens Advice, the Claimant resigned from his employment "in the heat of the moment" during an altercation with his line manager. The Claimant alleged that in a further meeting later that same day, the CEO of the company acknowledged the Claimant's wish to continue in employment and suggested he consider an alternative role. However, two days later, the CEO said that as the Claimant's line manager no longer wanted to work with him, his resignation must stand. 

The Claimant did not confirm his resignation in writing and instead sought to retract it. His employer refused to accept the retraction and his employment terminated on one month's notice. The Claimant brought claims for unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal. The Tribunal rejected the claims on the basis that his resignation was effective and there was therefore no dismissal in law. 

The Claimant appealed to the EAT.

EAT decision

The EAT found that the Tribunal had adopted an incorrect approach in its determination of the claim. It remitted the claim for a full re-hearing before a new Tribunal.

It is true that an effective notice of resignation or dismissal cannot be unilaterally retracted. However, in order to be effective in the first place, the resignation or dismissal must appear objectively to a reasonable employer to be "seriously meant" or "really intended" at the time the words are uttered.  This is the question on which the Tribunal should have focused in order to reach its decision.

The EAT emphasised that the same rules apply in all cases where notice of dismissal or resignation is given. The Tribunal should not have asked itself whether there were special circumstances present that justified a departure from this approach.   

Learning points

The EAT pointed out that its findings are not indicative of one party being more likely than another to succeed at the re-hearing of this case.  There were a number of findings of fact that the Tribunal had not made and which are likely to be relevant to the overall outcome of the case. This EAT decision instead offers guidance on the analysis to apply in order to consider whether a resignation or dismissal in the heat of the moment was "seriously meant" at all.

For more information or advice, please contact Ellie Boyd in our Employment team on 020 7665 0940, or complete the form below.

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