Q: A long-standing and key employee has just resigned out of the blue. It is the first resignation I have had to deal with and not only am I taken aback, I am unsure what needs to be done
A: If you employ people, you’ll one day have to accept a resignation. Whether it’s completely out of the blue or you saw it coming, you’ll need to know what to do next to minimise its impact on the business.
Accepting a resignation can be emotionally difficult, especially in a smaller business. But remember that this is the point where you need to start planning your next move. You may have initially been caught off guard, but get back to the script as quickly as you can. Stay positive and book in some time for a chat with the leaver to plan their exit, work out their notice, and, importantly, determine their reasons for leaving. It may be that it’s just time for them to move on, that they wish to take their career in new directions, or it could be for personal reasons. But have that chat in case it was over an issue at work that you could resolve. If they are leaving because they have a complaint about how they have been treated, see if they wish to invoke your grievance procedure. You may just avoid a constructive dismissal claim.
Beware of resignations used as a bargaining tool to get more money; this is tantamount to blackmail and not a course of action to be recommended.
If their continued employment during their notice period poses a risk to your operations, it may be worth sending them on garden leave on full pay; better safe than sorry, especially when intellectual property is involved. A pay in lieu of notice clause allows you to end the employment immediately, or at a point of your choosing during the contractual notice period and pay the balance of notice in lieu of them working. If you have neither in your current employment contract, it’s time to review them.
Finally, receiving a resignation doesn’t always spell the end of the employment relationship. Those given in the heat of the moment can and should be reconsidered if subsequently retracted.
Once you have accepted the resignation, confirm their leaving date and final pay in writing. Ensuring this process runs smoothly is in both your own and your employee’s interest.