HR Grapevine reported last week on an employee who resigned from her job by sending a condolences card to her employer, calling them “****holes” and complaining of not having been allowed to sit down on her (unpaid) break. The card continued “P.S. Karan quits too, you’ve treated her even worse, made her ill, we’re off to work together.”

This rather creative mode of resignation should raise numerous important talking points for the HR and management team at the employer, a few of which we’ve set out below.

  • Firstly, are the employee's grievances legitimate? Under the Working Time Regulations workers are entitled to rest breaks, which are meant for just that, rest. As such, having a manager telling employees not to sit down on their breaks is likely to be in breach of the law and could give rise to claims, in addition to doing serious damage to goodwill and morale among staff. The company should investigate to see whether such comments have been made, take action if appropriate, and ensure that going forward managers are aware of workers rights in respect of rest breaks to prevent further issues.
  • What’s happening with Karan? Notice of her resignation should be provided by her personally and not via a colleague. It would be prudent for the employer to get in touch with Karan and (sensitively) clarify her intentions to work out whether or not she has resigned. If she has not resigned, it would be a good idea for HR to have a chat with her to hear her concerns and decide how to deal with them, which may depend on whether or not Karan wants to raise a formal grievance.
  • Could a constructive unfair dismissal claim be on the horizon from the former employee who wrote the card, or indeed from Karan? Constructive unfair dismissal claims can arise where an employee with over two years’ service argue that their employer breached a fundamental term of their employment contract, which made the continued employment relationship untenable and forced them to resign. Under such circumstances, the employee is treated as having been effectively dismissed by their employer. This may seem a little extreme on the limited facts known to us in this case. However we do know that Karan has apparently been treated “even worse” and been made ill, which should raise alarm bells. A call from ACAS within the three months following dismissal would indicate that such a claim may be forthcoming.