How to write that resignation letter and move on with your career

As talk of the “Great Resignation” circulates, here’s what to consider if you’re thinking about moving on.

With a record 1.3 million job vacancies – more than the number of people who are unemployed – employees are feeling empowered to demand better, whether  that’s via industrial action to demand better working conditions or pay, or quitting for pastures new. 

So, if you’re thinking of moving on, you’re far from alone. Almost a quarter of employees say they are actively planning to change employers in the next few months, according to a survey from recruitment firm Randstad UK.

Almost seven in 10 employees said they felt confident about moving to a new role in the next few months, with only 16 per cent describing themselves as “worried” about trying to get a new job.

This new period of worker empowerment has been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” prompted by pandemic-induced burnout, or demands to return to the office, leading many to look elsewhere. 

Some call it  ‘resigning’, ‘quitting your job’, or ‘handing in your notice’, but whatever you go for, all you’re doing is telling your boss you’re leaving

Here’s what you need to know, and consider, before handing in the all important letter of resignation. 


What are valid reasons for resigning from a job?

Any reason that you have for resigning from your job is valid. You do not need to give a justification to your boss for resigning, and they cannot reject your resignation. 

Elaine Heslop, former employment lawyer and volunteer for the Mary Ward Legal Centre which provides free, independent advice to people who live and work in London, said that resigning for career progression – because you have found another role that builds on your skills – is most common. 

You may have reached a point in your current role where you feel you have mastered the role and have little more to learn or gain from it, and are therefore ready to move on and spread your wings. 

“Sometimes people feel they haven’t been valued in their work, they’re not trusted, they might have a supervisor or manager who is not treating them well, or there might be things about the work climate that they dislike,” Heslop explained.

If you are unhappy in your job, then this could be considered a negative reason to leave, but it is nonetheless a valid one. If you are struggling to work while dealing with a pre-existing mental health condition, or are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, then it might be time to find a new role that is better suited to you.

And the pandemic has changed how many of us approach work for good. 

“Lots of people are finding that their jobs are changing before their very eyes,” Heslop explained. 

Despite the government urging civil servants and commuters to return to their desks, recent research found that one in five people regularly work from home.

Flexible working, or hybrid working – a combination of working from your usual place of work and working remotely – has become a priority and even non-negotiable for some workers who have been able to better accommodate child care or caring responsibilities around their work.

What to consider if you’re this close to handing in your notice

Heslop also pointed out that there are other options to consider before jumping straight to quitting. If there is an element of your job that you don’t like, it might be possible to get that fixed. 

While “a lot of people are quite reluctant to do it because they feel the cards are stacked against them,” employees can lodge a grievance with their employer, which tells them you are unhappy with something that has happened. This gives the employer the opportunity to fix the issue before it becomes more serious.

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) suggests raising this informally first, and then if this doesn’t achieve the desired outcome, raising it formally with the company’s HR department or a line manager. 

“Employers have a duty to make sure employees are not put into a situation where they are forced to endure stress,” says Heslop. 

So, if you are being given too much work or put under an unfair amount of pressure, raising a grievance may be a way to fix the situation before you feel forced to quit. 

How much notice should you give if you decide to quit your job?

The first thing any employee who is considering quitting needs to do is to look at their contract. 

In that contract, there should be a Section One which lays out the core terms and conditions of an employee’s terms, including how long their notice period is. 

This can be one of two types; statutory or contractual. 

Statutory notice means after one month of employment, both employee and employer must give one week of notice for every year the employee has worked for the company. 

This is the government mandated minimum. An employee or employer can choose to give more than the statutory notice period but they cannot give less. 

A contractual notice period is one that has been agreed upon between the employee and employer when they signed their employment contract. This could be anything from two weeks to six months. 

How much notice should you give if you’re on a zero hour contract? 

A zero hour contract refers to any type of contract where the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum number of working hours to the employee. So one week the employee could be asked to work 24 hours, the next it could be seven, and the next it could be dropped to none at all. 

Employees on zero hour contracts are still required to abide by the notice period that appears on their contract. 

What happens if you break your notice period?

If you break the statutory or contractual notice period, the employer is entitled to sue for the equivalent of the rest of the notice pay.

“Does the employer always do that? I doubt it, but that is strictly the position because you are bound by the terms of your contract,” says Heslop. 

The only way an employee can justify leaving before the end of their notice period, is if the employee makes a constructive dismissal claim

An employee can make a constructive dismissal claim if they resign because they think their employer has seriously breached their employment contract. 

An example of this could be making unreasonable changes to the employee’s work, or a serious incident that amounts to gross misconduct, such as mistreating an employee or causing them serious upset. 

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How to hand in your resignation letter

Despite being generally called a resignation letter, handing in your notice does not need to be done in the form of a physical letter, rather, it simply needs to be in writing. 

“People don’t write letters anymore, so an email is the best way to do it,” says Heslop.

While it is considered good manners to tell your employer in person, and this might help you leave on good terms, this is not a requirement. There is no obligation to tell your boss or line manager that you are quitting in person. 

An employer can’t refuse to accept someone’s resignation.

What to write in a resignation letter and where to find a template

The most important things to include in a letter, or email, of resignation are: 

  • Your full name and role
  • The name of your employer and the company name
  • Your notice period
  • Your last day of employment

You may also wish to ask how much accrued holiday pay you are owed.

You can find resignation letter templates on the The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) website

Can your employer terminate your contract after you have resigned? 

An employer cannot terminate your contract at any point while you are working for the company without a valid reason. Until the contract expires – which is the employee’s last day of work – both parties are still committed to following what has been agreed upon within it. 

If an employee commits an act of gross misconduct, they can be dismissed without notice. Fraud, physical violence, serious lack of care to their duties or other people, or serious insubordination such as refusing to follow reasonable orders, are examples of gross misconduct.

Some employers may not require an employee to work the remainder of their notice period, but they are still required to pay the employee up until their last day. 

If an employer does not want an employee to work during their notice period, they may put them on gardening leave

They must still pay the employee for this period of time, however the employee is not allowed to conduct work for any other organisation. This may be because the employer does not want the employee to have access to sensitive or confidential information they could use in a new job. 

Head to Big Issue Jobs to find a role that works for you.

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