Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can a notice of resignation made at an emotional moment or under duress be withdrawn?
Although the autonomy of the individual has been recognised, the common law does make a qualification where the retraction of notice may be permissible if the free will of the person was absent, as was the case in Paige (at 286): “By reason of the significant purposes served by the common law principle, the qualification should be restricted to circumstances in which the act of resignation was not, in truth, a manifestation of the personal autonomy of the individual.”
In Martin v Yeoman Aggregates Ltd (1983) ICR 314, an employer was in an emotional state, resulting in an act where the employer dismissed an employee. However, the notice was withdrawn within five minutes, and under such circumstances, may provide a qualifier to the usual common law position.
Additionally, resignations made under duress or made involuntarily due to a confused or emotional mental state, can also be instances where a unilateral and swift retraction can be acceptable (per Birrell v Australian National Airlines Commission (1984) 5 FCR 447 at 459; Gunnedah Shire Council v Grout (1995) 62 IR 150 at 160).