A costume factory supervisor who handed in her keys in and said she was “done” whilst in an anxious state did not resign and was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has decided.
Natalie Cope successfully claimed for wrongful and unfair dismissal against her employer, Razzle Dazzle Costumes.
Heart attack victim wins £100,000 in tribunal
Laughing at someone falling over not harassment, rules tribunal
Manager wins age discrimination tribunal after ‘accelerated’ redundancy
Cope had been accused of bullying by a colleague in the summer of 2021 which she denied. The tribunal heard that this situation made her extremely anxious.
The day of the incident in question, Cope attended the office to talk to the owner of company, Lorna Parker, about the alleged bullying but was told that Parker was unavailable.
Cope was “visibly upset” by this and also suffered a leak to her stoma bag which she said increased her anxiety.
She then put her keys on the desk and said: “I’m done”.
Cope had a holiday booked the day after this encounter and returning her keys before annual leave was standard practice.
However, the tribunal found Razzle Dazzle Costumes used this instance as an opportunity to dismiss Cope as her dispute with a colleague was “a troublesome situation”.
Claims of wrongful and unfair dismissal were successful, but a further claim of disability dismissal did not succeed.
Simon Jones, director of HR consultancy Ariadne Associates, said the case is a reminder for employers to take care with verbal resignations.
Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “A clear and unambiguous verbal resignation can be accepted.
“However, HR teams should take care if a resignation is made in a heat of the moment situation, or where the employee is distressed, or where the words are ambiguous – all of which apply in this case.
Jones suggests giving employees a cooling off period before clarifying if they meant what they said.
“If so, it can be treated as a valid resignation,” he added. “In this case, simply checking with the employee the following day what exactly she meant would have saved this company several thousands of pounds.”