Employee not Entitled to Rescind Notice of Resignation after Acceptance by Employer

In English v. Manulife Financial Corporation, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered whether an employee who has resigned from her employment by written notice was entitled to rescind the notice of resignation after it had been accepted by the employer.

The employee worked for Manulife (previously Standard Life) for 10 years. She was a Senior Customer Relationship Manager. She was 66 years of age. On September 22, 2016, she met with her supervisor and advised him that she would be retiring on December 31, 2016. She provided written notice of resignation to Manulife confirming her intention to retire on December 31, 2016.

Approximately one month later, the employee advised Manulife that she wanted to rescind her notice of resignation. By this time, Manulife had begun to make plans to manage her retirement including the assignment of files to other managers. Manulife advised her that they would respect her decision to resign on December 31, 2016, and would not allow her to rescind the notice of resignation.

The Court found that the employee clearly and unequivocally resigned from her employment. She was not under any duress and did so of her own volition. The issue is whether she could resile from that resignation after it has been accepted by the employer.   Generally speaking, an employee can resile from a notice of resignation before it is accepted by the employer, provided that the employer has not relied on the resignation to its detriment (for example, hired a replacement).  In this case, the employee was not entitled to rescind her notice of resignation because it had been accepted. The Court found that the employee was not induced in any way, shape or form to tender her notice of resignation and that she did so willingly and freely. It was accepted by the employer.  The Court concluded that there was a binding contract between the parties which required her resignation.

If an employee provides notice of resignation (verbally or in writing), employers should provide written acknowledgement and acceptance of the resignation given the legal significance attached to the employer’s acceptance of the resignation.  In this case, it is notable that there was not any dispute about the resignation or acceptance by the employer.