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Deciding whether to resign

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

Resigning might feel like a good option if you’re being treated badly at work. However, it’s a big step and it’s important to think about all your options first. You could try to solve the problem a different way or find another job before resigning. If you decide to resign, there are steps you should follow to do it properly.

Check if there's another way to solve the problem

It’s worth thinking about whether you’d want to stay in your job if the problem was solved. You might be able to get your employer to put things right without having to resign.

You could try:

  • talking to your employer about the problem
  • asking your trade union to talk to your employer for you, if you’re a member
  • raising a grievance - this is a formal complaint which your employer can’t ignore
  • asking your employer if they’ll arrange mediation - this is where someone else tries to help you agree
  • starting early conciliation to solve the problem without going to court

Find out what to do next if you think you could try other options before resigning.

If you’re thinking about resigning because you’re being treated badly, keep a diary of what’s happening. This will give you useful evidence if you later decide to make a claim against your employer.

See if you can find a new job

If you don’t want to find a way to stay in your job, it’s often easier to find a new job before leaving your old one.

This could mean you won’t lose income or have to worry about claiming benefits. You wouldn't have to answer difficult questions from a new employer about why you resigned without another job to go to.

If you still want to resign

If you haven’t got another job to go to, you should work out your budget. This will tell you how long you’ll be able to manage for before you find another job. If it’s not for very long, it could be better to wait a bit longer before you resign. 

If you or your partner get any benefits, check if stopping work will affect them. For example, your working tax credits could stop after 4 weeks.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need to work out how your benefits might change.

If you don’t have another job to go to, you can claim benefits straight away. 
You can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) as soon as you know the date you’re stopping work. You’ll need to show you had a good reason for resigning, or you might not get any money for around 3 months. This is called a sanction.

You should also check what other benefits you could get.

There are some extra things you should think about before deciding to resign, depending on your situation.

If you think you're being forced out

If your employer has told you they'll dismiss you if you don't resign, this counts as a dismissal. If they're treating you badly in order to make you resign, it could be constructive dismissal. 

You should contact your nearest Citizens Advice before you do anything.

If you don't feel safe to go back to work

Some problems are serious enough that resigning and leaving without notice could be the best option. Resigning is still a big step, but it can be better than staying in a job which puts you in danger.

For example, if you feel that:

  • you’re being repeatedly bullied by your colleagues or employer
  • you’re frightened to go into work
  • you don’t feel safe at work

Tell your employer why you’re resigning in writing. This will mean you’ve got evidence of why you resigned if you want to take legal action against your employer.

For example, if your employer knew you were being bullied but didn’t do anything about it, you might be able to make an employment tribunal claim for constructive dismissal.

If you verbally told your employer you were resigning, you should follow this up with an email or letter to confirm why you’re leaving.

To get help to work out if it’s worth making a claim, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you're off sick

If you resign you could claim benefits, but you won’t get more money than you would on sick pay. If you stay in your job while you get better, you’ll keep getting paid and building up holiday entitlement. You can still explore ways to solve the problem while you’re off sick.

Check if your employer can give you any support - for example they might offer an occupational health service or counselling to help you deal with stress.

You could also ask your employer if they’ll make changes to help you back into your job. For example, you could ask to come back to work in a different team, or for a few hours a week at first.

If you’re disabled your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you do your job. You can find out how to ask for reasonable adjustments.

If you're in a disciplinary process

If you resign while you’re in the middle of a disciplinary procedure or being investigated for misconduct, your employer could mention this on any reference they give you. This could make it harder for you to find a new job.

It could also mean your employer continues with the disciplinary process in your absence and you can't influence the result.

Resigning while you’re in a disciplinary process could also mean you can’t get JSA or Universal Credit for around 3 months.

You can get help if you’re in a disciplinary process and find out more about getting job references.

If you think you might be made redundant

If you’ve worked for your employer for over 2 years you’re usually better off waiting to be made redundant, as you’ll probably get a redundancy payment. If you want to stay with your employer, they might offer you a new job.

You can find out how much redundancy pay you’d get and check your options if your employer offers you a different job.

How to resign

If you’re sure you want to resign, follow these steps to stand the best chance of getting a good reference and being paid everything you’re owed.

Check how much notice you need to give your employer

You should be able to find how much notice you need to give in your contract or staff handbook. If it doesn’t say anything, you’ll still need to give a minimum amount of notice - you can check your notice period and find out what to do if you want to give less notice.

Give your employer notice in writing

You could write a letter or an email, so you’ll have a record of when and how you resigned.

It should say:

  • how much notice you’re giving
  • when your last day will be

You don’t have to give a reason for your resignation. However, if you’re resigning because of something your employer did, you should say this in the letter. This will give you evidence if you decide to take legal action against them.

Check your holiday pay entitlement

If you haven’t taken all the holiday you’re entitled to, ask your employer if you need to take it during your notice period or if you can be paid for it.

If you’ve taken more holiday than you’re entitled to, your employer might take money from your final pay.

You can check whether you’re owed any holiday.

Check your final payslip

Make sure you’ve been paid for everything you were expecting, including any bonus or commission you were entitled to. If not, tell your employer.

If your employer won’t pay, you can take steps to get the money you’re owed. If you’ve got home or car insurance you might be able to get free legal advice through your policy - check your insurance paperwork for details.

If you were in a workplace pension scheme, remember to keep a record of the details.

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