Letter giving notice was not unambiguous resignation


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The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held in East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust v Levy that a tribunal was entitled to find that an employee's letter to her employer giving "one month's notice" was not a letter of resignation.

The claimant worked for the Trust in the Records Department. She experienced difficulties at work and applied for an alternative position in the Radiology Department. She was offered this position, subject to pre-appointment checks. Following an argument with one of her colleagues in the Records Department she handed a letter to her manager which stated that she was giving one month's notice as of the date of the letter (10 June 2016). Six days later the offer of a position in the Radiology Department was withdrawn due to the claimant's sick leave record. The claimant sought to retract her notice but the respondent refused and wrote to confirm the date of termination of employment as 10 July 2016. The claimant brought a claim for unfair dismissal.

At first instance the tribunal found that the claimant had been dismissed by the Trust, rejecting the Trust's argument that the words used by the claimant in giving notice were clear and unambiguous. The EAT agreed, stating that the claimant's use of the word "notice" could have been referring either to her leaving the Records Department or to leaving the Trust's employment. In this instance it held that it was the former. The tribunal had focussed on the wording of the letter of 10 June 2016 and the circumstances prevailing at that stage, and it was therefore entitled to find that the reference to giving notice was related to the claimant's particular position in the Records Department.

Take note: Generally when an employee gives notice it will be an unambiguous statement that they mean to leave the employer's employment. However, the decision in Levy shows that things will not always be clear cut, and the overall context is also relevant. There may sometimes be circumstances where the resignation is delivered in the heat of the moment, or where, as in Levy the notice is given of a move from one department to another, rather than giving up employment completely.

This article is taken from HR Law - October 2018

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