Can an employee withdraw a resignation?

When an employee decides to resign, the employee voluntarily terminates the employment contract and relationship. The employee’s decision to resign is a unilateral act and there is no obligation on the employer to formally accept the resignation for it to be effective. The employer cannot refuse or deny the employee’s resignation but can hold the employee accountable for the notice period.

The length of the notice period will depend on what labour legislation prescribes for the specific business industry, but the Basic Conditions of Employment Act requires:

  • one week’s notice if the employee was employed for six months or less;
  • two weeks’ notice if the employee was employed for more than six months but less than 12 months;
  • four weeks’ notice if the employee was employed for more than 12 months.

The resignation

An employee can terminate the employment relationship for various reasons, including a new job opportunity, job dissatisfaction, avoiding the scrutiny of a disciplinary hearing, or an emotional decision in the heat of the moment.  It is important to meet with the employee and discuss the reasons for the resignation and any underlying problems or conditions.  If the employer suspects the resignation or its circumstances to be suspicious, allow a cooling-off period to avoid a possible referral of constructive dismissal or even unfair labour practice.

Can the employee withdraw the resignation?

In short:  no.  The employee does not have the right to withdraw a resignation but should rather approach the employer as soon as possible and discuss the possibility of withdrawing the resignation.

What are the employer’s options?

The employer now has a choice to either accept the withdrawal or not.  Be sure to take into account any underlying problems or conditions regarding the resignation.

Firstly, the employer can hold the employee to the resignation and refuse to accept the request for withdrawal. The employer can still enforce the notice period.

Secondly, the employer can agree to accept the employee’s withdrawal of resignation. There is no need to implement a new employment contract as there was no break in the period of employment. The employment relationship will continue as before.  Take note that the terms and conditions of employment cannot be unilaterally amended.  Any changes should be negotiated between the parties and mutually agreed upon.

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