Should you ever ask an employee to resign?

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When it comes to terminating an employee, asking them to resign may seem like an opportunity to end things amicably but one leading employment lawyer told HRM that it’s actually a terrible idea.

“There’s no way an employer can ask someone to resign without opening themselves up to legal risk,” warns Howard Levitt, senior partner at Levitt & Grossman.

“In fact, asking someone to resign is exactly the same legally as firing them,” he continued. “If you say to an employee ‘If you don’t resign we’ll fire you,’ and they try and resign to save face then at the end of the day a court would say they’ve been wrongfully dismissed,” he explained.

According to Toronto-based Levitt, if an employer has cause to fire an employee, they’re far better off just firing them.

“The fact of resignation creates some ambiguity with how serious you were with your cause because if it was really that serious you would have just fired them and you wouldn’t have let them resign,” he explains.

“The other problem with resignation is; under Canadian law, an employee who resigns in the heat of the moment angrily is always given a few days to change their mind when they cool down so it’s not definitive,” Levitt continues.

“You’re really much better off just firing them rather than asking them to resign – there’s no protection if you ask them to resign, if anything there’s less protection for the employer.

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  • Kellie on 2015-11-09 12:54:45 PM

    This is something I have always wondered about in terms of why employers' would ask someone to resign. I can see having a discussion in the right context, about whether they are happy working in the organization, but I would not think 'telling' some to resign is a good idea. Regardless of the circumstances.

  • Ryan on 2015-11-09 1:54:12 PM

    Could anyone refer me to the federal law that grants employees who quit in the heat of the moment several days to change their mind?

  • Kellie on 2015-11-09 9:19:50 PM

    There is no federal law that allows employees to change their minds; but there is case law that illustrates that someone quitting in an emotional state or in the heat of the moment may not be fully comprehending what they've done. Take a read of this.
    http://www.toronto-employmentlawyer.com/laws-of-resignation/

  • Shine on 2015-11-23 6:56:04 AM

    Good way to handle this part of HRM

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