Ir court upholds appeal against decision that an employee who resigned from his employment was unlaw

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Ir court upholds appeal against decision that an employee who resigned from his employment was unlaw

In the Decision of Gunnedah Shire Council/Cross v. Raymond Ernest Grout /Cross (950661) a Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia upheld an employer’s appeal against a decision that stated that an employee who gave insufficient notice of his own resignation was unlawfully terminated by his employer when the employer accepted that insufficient notice.

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In the Decision of Gunnedah Shire Council/Cross v. Raymond Ernest Grout /Cross (950661)a Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia upheld an employer’s appeal against a decision that stated that an employee who gave insufficient notice of his own resignation was unlawfully terminated by his employer when the employer accepted that insufficient notice.

Facts
  • The employee, Mr Grout, was the manager of the Gunnedah Shire Abattoir.
  • In the execution of his duties, the employee came under considerable pressure which resulted in severe work-related stress and depression.
  • On 18 May, 1994, the employee drafted the letter of resignation that annexed a doctors certificate stating that he was suffering from stress and depression, and advised that he would resign effective 5.00pm on 23 May, 1994.
  • On receipt of the facsimiled resignation letter, representatives of the Council visited the employee and attempted to convince him to change his mind. The employee reaffirmed his intention to resign.
  • The resignation was accepted by the Council on 18 May, 1994.
  • At 5.22pm on 23 May, 1994, the employee, through his solicitors, wrote to the Council withdrawing his resignation letter.
Trial Judge's Findings
  • The Trial Judge found that the period of notice given by the employee in his letter of 18 May, 1994, was not reasonable, so the letter was not effective to terminate the contract of employment on 5.00pm on Monday, 23 May, 1994.
  • The Trial Judge also found that the employee’s letter of 18 May, 1994, and subsequent conduct did not amount to repudiation of his contract of employment.
A Decision of the Full Bench
  • The Full Bench did not agree with the first finding of the Trial Judge and stated that a person who is entitled not to have a contract to which he or she is a party determined except after specified notice, or reasonable notice, may waive that entitlement and accept a notice of termination that gives less than required notice. The Full Bench found that such acceptance of less than reasonable notice was present and that the contract was terminated by the employers acceptance of that notice.
  • The Full Bench did not accept the second proposition of the Trial Judge noted above that the actions of the employee did not repudiate the contract. The Full Bench found that the purported termination by the employee on three working days notice was a repudiation of his obligation of continuing service and therefore a repudiation of his contract of employment.
  • A key question raised by the facts in the case was whether the resignation of the employee was voluntary, due to his mental condition at the time he submitted his resignation. The Full Bench found that, although there was no doubt that the employee was suffering depression and stress at the time that he wrote his resignation letter, that did not provide a basis for finding that his actions were the product of confusion or were involuntary. The Full Bench found that the employee made a considered decision to leave his employment and that he confirmed that decision after discussions with Council employees in which those Council employees attempted to get him to reconsider his position.
Implications of the Decision for Employers

This decision relieves employers from concerns that they could not accept a resignation from an employee unless that resignation was given on "reasonable notice". (Industrial Relations Act 1988s99n)

Employers should, however, be wary of the voluntariness of any resignation tendered and ensure, where possible, a resignation is not the product of confusion or other pressures that would render that resignation as involuntary.

 

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