Remember – before you resign from your job, think carefully about your decision.

In the recent matter of Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa on behalf of Hansen vs Standard Bank, the CCMA found that the employee, Ms Hansen, had unilaterally resigned and was required by the Bank to work out her notice.

A little bit of history. The employee worked mainly at Epping Industrial Branch as a Customer Care Officer. To augment her income, she sometimes worked on Sundays at the Promenade Branch. This was acceptable to management until January 2016, because both branches belonged in the same cluster. Due to a restructuring exercise, the branches no longer formed part of the same cluster and she was instructed not to work at Promenade on Sundays. However, she continued doing so and when discovered, was called to attend a disciplinary hearing. At this juncture, she resigned with immediate effect. However, the employer refused to accept her immediate resignation and required her to work out her notice period. She continued and worked out the notice period. She also elected to participate in the disciplinary hearing, and was found not guilty of the charges. The employer informed her that her notice period was expiring on the following day and in response, she chose to retract the resignation. This was rejected by the Bank.

She referred a dispute to the CCMA arguing that the employer did not accept her immediate resignation (i.e. by requiring her to work out the notice period) and that in the circumstances, she had been unfairly dismissed. The Commissioner noted that the only factual dispute was whether the Bank had accepted the resignation (subject to the 30-day notice period) and he relied on the decision of African National Congress v Municipal Manager, George Local Municipality and others (2010) where it was held that the “resignation must be effective immediately or from a specified date, and being a unilateral legal act, it does not need to be accepted by the intended recipient to be effected.”

In this case, when she resigned, the employer accepted it on the basis that she was obliged to work out the notice. She could have resigned and left immediately but then would face the consequences of the employer trying to recover an amount equivalent to her notice pay. Rather, she worked out the notice period, but this did not invalidate the resignation, it simply was put to effect at the end of the notice period.

In so far as the retraction of the resignation, the Commissioner referred to the case of Lottering & Others v Stellenbosch Municipality (2010), wherein it was held that the withdrawal of a resignation cannot have any effect unless the employer consents to such withdrawal. It was ultimately found that no dismissal had taken place and the Applicant’s claim was dismissed.