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According to one recent survey, some 41% of employees were considering handing in their resignation and whilst the numbers of those actually resigning are considerably lower (estimates place this between 3 – 5% of the workforce in any given month), employers still need to appreciate how this might affect them, how to handle the situation when an employee resigns and what they can do to prevent this from happening.

Preventing resignations with a grievance process

An employee might see resignation as a last resort and may instead try to resolve matters formally using internal grievance processes, therefore, it is anticipated that the number of internal grievances will increase over the course of 2022.

Employers should ensure that their internal grievance processes are up to date and compliant with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinaries and grievances. Generally, grievance processes should allow employees to write to an identified individual setting out their perceived issues. A meeting should be held to discuss the issues and to see what resolution the employee is seeking, following which, any required investigations should take place. The employer should then write to the employee setting out the findings of their investigations and confirming whether the grievance is upheld or not. Finally, employees should be given a right to appeal the grievance outcome if they are not satisfied with this.

Improving employee retention with home/hybrid working

One reason often given by employees who are resigning is a lack of flexibility in working arrangements with their current employer. Whilst this previously may not have been a dealbreaker for most employees, a large proportion of the workforce who were previously office based have gotten used to home working in some form since the start of the pandemic. As we learn to live with COVID-19, many employers are looking at a return to the workplace, which can often leave employees feeling uncomfortable or, in a worst-case scenario, somewhat aggrieved.

Employers will need to carefully consider the reasons for requiring staff to return to the office on a full-time basis and communicate these clearly to those affected. Where there is no clear rationale for returning to the office on a full-time basis, employers could look to formalise home or hybrid working by introducing formal processes and policies.

Other methods to improve employee retention

Beyond looking at flexible working initiatives, employers should consider a wider range of tactics to improve retention rates, including looking to extend welfare or benefits packages where they are able to.

Regular appraisal processes where constructive feedback is given can generate a dialogue with employees and allow them to feel they have a sense of control over their employment or provide them with a sense of direction at work.

Alternatively, employers might want to look at conducting regular feedback sessions or sending out surveys to gauge staff opinions of the workplace and what improvements might be made.

How to handle a resignation

If all else fails and an employer is faced with their employee resigning, they need to consider how best to approach this.

Provided the employee resigns in accordance with any contractual requirements (serving notice using any prescribed methods and giving the right amount of notice) employers will be in a position where, failing to convince the employee to retract their notice, they will need to accept it.

Generous employers might agree shorter notice periods with their employees or look to make a payment in lieu of notice, allowing the employee to leave quickly. This might be appropriate in a situation where there is a disgruntled employee in the business who may do more damage by working out their notice.

Alternatively, employers may want to make use of any garden leave clauses contained in contracts of employment. Where there is no express contractual right to place an employee on garden leave, employers should seek agreement to place the member of staff on garden leave or they risk being in breach of contract.

Where an employee gives notice but later wishes to rescind this it is entirely at the employer’s discretion as to whether to accept this or to simply let the notice expire, such that the employment terminates. So long as the employer applies this discretion in a reasonable and non-discriminatory way, there is little additional risk in refusing to allow somebody to rescind their notice.

If a resignation is accepted then it is advisable for employers to consider what restrictions, if any, the employee is subject to after they have left. You should consider whether you need to rely on restrictive covenants and to what extent.

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