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Can an Employer Refuse to Accept a Resignation?

Can an Employer Refuse to Accept a Resignation?

by David Landau

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In a professional sector like the Sydney Accounting industry, very few people tender their resignation in the heat of the moment. For most, the thought of resigning brings about feelings of nerves, stress and dread, despite the excitement about a new job. On the day, just stepping into your manager’s office to hand in your resignation requires a serious level of conviction and commitment.

So, think about this: you have a new job lined up, you have everything in order, your resignation letter has been written and you’ve prepared your reasons for wanting to leave. What happens when your manager then tells you they refuse to accept your resignation?

Suddenly, all your carefully laid plans and those weeks or even months of preparation have gone straight out the window. Or have they? Can an employer (legally or otherwise) refuse to accept your resignation? Will you be forced to remain at this job simply because they say so?

Can an Employer Refuse to Accept Your Resignation?

The only real basis for not accepting a resignation is perhaps because you haven’t provided enough notice as stipulated in your contract, otherwise your employer has no choice but to accept the fact you are going (click here for guidelines from Fair Work). In part their reaction may be because they are upset that you’re leaving and cannot “accept” the situation on an emotional level. However, once you’ve handed in your resignation, your notice period begins and there is nothing that can be done to stop you from leaving once that time is up. If you are a star performer in the team, their refusal may be the start of an attempt to counter-offer you. If this is the case, it’s usually best to stick to your guns. Read our blog on how to handle counter-offers for more.

It’s also important to note that while a verbal resignation can be valid, you should check your employment contract for specific details. Following up in writing or at least having another employee witness the process to ensure there is evidence should there ever be a dispute is best practice.

During the process, it is important to remember that you are the person who matters the most when it comes to your resignation. But the way you handle the communication of your departure with your manager and colleagues, may be what they remember about you once you have left the organisation. The way you conduct yourself during your notice period also adds to your legacy. Professionalism is key throughout the whole process and shouldn’t diminish just because you know you will be leaving.

How to Avoid This Situation

Understand your employee resignation notice period

The first and most important thing to do, before taking the plunge and resigning, is to read through and understand the terms of your contract, and what notice period is required of you upon resignation. An employer can only refuse to accept your resignation if you haven’t provided enough notice, so it pays to know exactly what’s required of you.

Secondly, resignations can be difficult, and nobody wants to leave on bad terms. Here are a few tips to consider so that you don’t burn any bridges when you leave:

1. Be honest with yourself, and with your employer, about the reasons you’ve quit

Chances are before you resign you will have done a lot of thinking and planning. While it is important to be honest, it’s also important to remember that you don’t have to say everything that’s on your mind. Focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative. That doesn’t mean lying about the reasons that you’ve quit, just keep in mind exactly what you need to say and what you don’t and get the balance right. Unintentionally upsetting anybody during the process is not helpful to anyone especially in Sydney’s tight-knit Accounting community.

2. Be helpful during the transition

Do anything you can to ease the transition as you leave. Offering to help find, interview or train your replacement is a great way to leave a positive impression, as well as increasing confidence in the organisation and their new hire. It shows you’re a dedicated and professional employee right up until the last moment, even if your company initially chooses to not accept your resignation.

3. Show gratitude to the people who have helped you during your time at the company

While there are clear reasons why you want to leave, approach your departure with a long-term perspective. It’s important to thank the people who have helped get you to this position. Think about those specifically who have enabled and empowered you and take them aside personally to voice your gratitude. There are many ways to leave your mark after you have gone, but your overall contribution to the team and the organisation is what will be remembered; not the cake you bought for your last day. You never know who you might bump into down the road.

Closing Thoughts

In summary, your employer cannot refuse your resignation unless you haven’t provided the right amount of notice that is detailed in your employment contract. Even then, if you have a good relationship with your manager, a negotiation is possible about your final date. Ultimately though, there is nothing they can do to stop you from leaving. All their refusal will do is lead to an uncomfortable conversation.

If you feel like you’re ready to move on from your current Accounting role, speak to the team here at Richard Lloyd. We’ll connect you with the best opportunities in the Sydney Accounting job market.

Follow us on LinkedIn for more recruitment tips and insights.

Please note that as we’re not legal professionals, we recommend you contact a lawyer should you have any specific questions on this topic.