Clear and unambiguous words constituted effective resignation
In Ali v Birmingham City Council the EAT held that where clear and unambiguous words have been used by an employee in the process of resigning, then only in exceptional circumstances can such a resignation be found not to be effective.
Where an employee resigns in accordance with the terms of his or her contract, the employer is under no obligation to accept any subsequent request from the employee that the resignation be withdrawn so that the employment relationship can continue. But what if the resignation is in the ‘heat of the moment’ or the words used are ambiguous? Is there still a valid resignation?
Mr Ali tendered his resignation in a situation which he described as being under pressure, stressed out and not thinking straight, none of which was work-related. The written resignation stated: “I Mohammed Ali hereby resign at 14.40 on 25th April 2007”. He was given 30 minutes “cooling off time” to re-consider but even so confirmed that he wished to resign with immediate effect.
Two days later he tried to withdraw his resignation, claiming he had been stressed and was not thinking straight. The Council refused to let him change his mind. He claimed unfair dismissal. An employment tribunal dismissed his claim, holding that he had resigned and there was no dismissal. Mr Ali appealed, arguing that he had resigned “in the heat of the moment”, and therefore the Council could not rely on his otherwise clear words.
The EAT dismissed his appeal. There was no evidence of any “heat of the moment” and Mr Ali had persisted in his wish to resign despite being given a cooling off period, and had done so using clear terminology. Where clear and unambiguous words have been used, a tribunal can only conclude that there was in fact no resignation in very exceptional circumstances – and that was not the case here.