Is Walking Out of Work a Sackable Offence?

Tempers can run high in the workplace in times of stress. Things can be said and done in the heat of the moment. But does walking out of work mean you’ll be sacked? The answer will vary depending on how the situation has played out.

employee shouting into telephone

Words and actions matter. If an employee walks out and clearly says they quit, then it can be accepted as an immediate resignation.

You’re not being sacked if you’ve done this, but you’ve effectively terminated your own employment contract. In other situations, things are a little less black and white.

Walking Out of Work Being Treated as Resignation

When does walking out of work constitute your resignation? In every circumstance, an employer will treat you leaving work abruptly very seriously.

If you have snapped and said “I quit!” before leaving then your employer can accept this as a resignation. Similarly even if you don’t verbally resign, your actions can be interpreted as a resignation. For example, if you hand in your keys, work pass, and work uniform.

Written notice is usually part of the resignation process. However, your boss would be within his or her rights to accept verbal resignation, or interpret some actions as a resignation.

If you have not verbally resigned, or handed in work gear things may not be so clear. However, even where your language was unclear your employer might say you’ve resigned. In this situation, if you decide you do not wish to resign, get in touch with your manager as soon as possible and explain your position.

It’s more than likely your employer will try to contact you for some clarity on the situation. If you do not make any contact, it would be fair for your boss to assume you’d resigned.

I’ve Walked Out & Regret it – What Should I Do?

Sometimes, it all gets too much and we all say and do things we wish we could undo. If you’ve walked out of work in the heat of the moment, time is of the essence. Deal with the situation head on, and as quickly as possible.

You should:-

  1. Make yourself available for a conversation with your boss. No matter how bad things got at work, you owe them an explanation for what happened which might help prevent further incidents from occurring.
  2. If speaking to your boss isn’t feasible then set up a meeting with HR. Show that you are willing to talk about the situation.
  3. Offer an apology even if you aren’t 100% feeling it. Your boss will be more forgiving if you show remorse for walking out.
  4. Be as honest as you are comfortable with about the circumstances which led to you needing to leave to blow off some steam.
  5. Keep a written record of the conversations you have in light of you walking out in case they are needed further down the line.
  6. Be frank about any changes you feel may help the situation, such as work more evenly distributed among the staff.

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Employment law advice is also available from your local Citizens Advice or you can contact ACAS to help resolve disputes.

What are my Rights if I’ve Walked Out?

If you’ve walked out of work, and said you are resigning, your employer does not have to allow you to retract it.

This means you will have fewer rights than during a standard resignation. However, you do still have some rights. This includes the possibility of claiming constructive dismissal.

Notice Pay

In the event your employer takes your walking out as an immediate resignation, then your rights will be limited.

You will not be entitled to notice pay as you will be in breach of your contract. In the absence of a contract, there is still a statutory notice period that should be honoured.

In itself, a breach of contract can mean your boss takes legal action against you. More often than not, your boss will choose not to unless your immediate leave causes the company significant problems. However, they are within their rights to follow this route so it’s something to consider.

If you have walked out and realised that you can’t afford to not receive payment, then it’s best to approach your boss. Be calm, apologetic and explain the events leading up to your walk out. Make them aware that you are happy to fulfil your obligations and work notice. You might be able to agree to a notice period which means you will be paid.

Holiday Pay

You should be paid for any holiday days you’ve accrued, even if you quit without following the correct procedure.

If your employer tries to retain your untaken holiday pay, you should contact ACAS for further advice. This may be an unlawful deduction of wages.

You should also refer to the ACAS guide on working out your final pay to understand your entitlements.

Is it Illegal to Quit a Job Without Notice?

It a breach of your contract of employment to quit a job without the correct notice procedure.

A breach of contract can lead to legal action being taken, although employers will only do this in certain situations. Even without a written contract, employees are still bound by the terms of the statutory notice period of one week for employment of more than 1 month.

Our guide on quitting a job without notice, covers the legal implications in more detail.

Claiming Constructive Dismissal

You may have a case for claiming constructive dismissal even if you’ve walked out of your job.  If your action was in response to serious misconduct from your employer, you can still have a claim.

Whilst constructive dismissal is difficult to prove, if you’ve walked out because of situations such as:-

  • Bullying or harassment.
  • Breach of health and safety rules.
  • Unreasonable changes to work patterns or place of work.

You may have walked away from a situation at work to let things cool. Perhaps it was never your intention for this to be classed as resignation. If you feel you’ve been unfairly treated as a result of this, then you may have grounds to pursue a case of unfair dismissal.

There will be conditions that you must meet to claim for constructive dismissals, such as being an employee for 2 continuous years or more.

An important consideration before pursuing this path is to consider the legal costs and your chance of winning the claim. It is always sensible to seek legal advice before making any big decisions.

If You Are Considering Walking Out…

If you’re thinking of walking out of your job, take a deep breath and consider the implications. Can you cope with the income shock?

Even if things are unbearable and you need to leave, try to hand in your notice in the correct way. We’ve all dreamed of giving our boss a piece of our mind at times. But in the cold light of day, you’ll have an immediate loss of income and possible issues with references.

Try to remain calm, and exit with as much grace (and money) as you can!

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