Imagine this scenario: you have thought long and hard about whether to leave your job. It has been a difficult decision. But the pros outweigh the cons and you have decided to let your employer know.
So you meet with your boss in a quiet part of the office and explain to them that after careful thought you have decided to move on. You are resigning.
“I won’t accept it,” your boss retorts.
Sorry, what? Your employer won’t accept your resignation?
Where does this leave you after all the consideration you have given to the matter? Do you now have no option but to stay?
No. You have resigned and there is no need for your employer to accept the resignation to legitimise it.
Let me explain.
HOW EMPLOYMENT RELATIONSHIPS END
Employment relationships terminate when either you or your employer communicate that it is over between you (unless you have been employed for a fixed term with a specified end date from the outset, but that’s the subject of another blog post).
Employers must have good reason
Having said that, employers can only terminate an employment relationship for good reason and after following a fair process. There is no right to “fire-at-will” in New Zealand.
On the other hand, employees can choose to end the employment relationship for any reason at all.
Both parties must give reasonable notice
In both cases, the party who wants to terminate must give reasonable notice that the relationship is coming to an end. That gives either party time to adjust their affairs to accommodate the ending of the relationship. Your employer may need to hurriedly find someone to replace you. And if you are dismissed, you will need time to look for another job.
Usually the amount of notice to be given is specified in your employment agreement. If the agreement is silent about what period of notice must be given,a reasonable period of notice must be given taking into account factors such as how long the employee was employed, the reason for the dismissal and past practice with other staff or what is common in your industry.
May need to be in writing
Your employment agreement may also specify the form a notice to terminate must take.
It is very common for termination clauses in employment agreements to require that any notice to terminate be given in writing.
In that case, if you tell your boss verbally that you are resigning, but don’t reduce it to writing, technically you have not given a valid notice.
(In any event, it is a good idea to reduce your resignation to writing, whether by email or by letter, so that everyone is clear about when you are leaving.)
YOUR EMPLOYER’S ACCEPTANCE DOESN’T MATTER
All of the above is to emphasise that how an employment relationship comes to a close is a matter determined by your employment agreement.
In other words, you have brought the employment relationship to an end according to the terms of your employment agreement, if you:
- give the right period of notice of resignation; and
- communicate your resignation in the correct mode (e.g. writing if necessary).
At that point, it matters not what your employer thinks.
Of course they may not want to accept that you are leaving. It could be a challenge to find your replacement.
But their acceptance or lack thereof is irrelevant to whether the agreement has been brought to an end according to its terms.
The absurdity of this misconception is drawn out if we consider what it might look like if the shoe were on the other foot.
Imagine your employer moved to dismiss you and gave you notice to terminate your employment. Could you say you do not accept it and thereby prevent your dismissal?
No, of course not.
Your acceptance has no bearing on the notice to terminate, and neither does your employer’s acceptance have any effect on your election to resign.
CAN I BE FORCED TO STAY?
In some cases, when your employer says, “I don’t accept your resignation,” what they really mean is that they want to persuade you to stay.
They cannot force you to stay – having no choice about whom we work for would be equivalent to slavery.
But your employer may ask you to hold off formalising your resignation or actually leaving until they have had a chance to persuade you with better terms to remain in your job.
You can retract your notice if your employer convinces you that is a good idea. In that case, withdrawing your notice to resign means that both you and your employer agree to pretend you never gave notice in the first place.
Employment relationships come to an end as a result of either party giving the appropriate notice specified in your employment agreement, or otherwise what is considered reasonable in your industry.
Such notice is sufficient to bring the employment relationship to an end.
Your employer doesn’t need your acceptance to approve of your dismissal, and neither do you need your employer to accept your notice of resignation if you decide to move on.