Resignation Letter: The right way to hand in your notice

Caragh Bailey
8 min read
A man hands his boss an envelope that reads 'resignation', across a wooden desk. Resignation Letter from Employment Law Friend.

When you're leaving a job, it's much more important to get your resignation letter right than you might think.

How you write your resignation letter will depend on why you're leaving. When you're facing issues at work, as tempting as is is to write a simple resignation letter, as brief as possible, and get out of there without any further conflict, you need to take care over what you write.

If you don't mention the problems that have caused you to leave you could lose the right to claim constructive dismissal. If you mention them in the wrong way, with a bad attitude, you will burn bridges and you may give the employment tribunal the wrong impression for any subsequent tribunal case.

If you are resigning due to problems at work, you may be owed compensation. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.
Employment Law Specialist | Competitive Quotes | Straight Talking Legal Support

If you've had a great working relationship and are leaving amicably, you still need to take care over your resignation letter. It may affect the reference your employer gives you and can be the difference between leaving with, or without, a strong networking connection.

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves, the first question is:

How do I professionally resign?

    Find another job
Unless your current job is so problematic that your working relationship had broken down, your contract has not been honoured, or your rights have been violated, it is always best to find another job first.

It is easier to find a job when you've got a job. Recruiters will see the fact that you are out of work as a red flag. This also saves you the stress of being without income and adding pressure to your job search. (This of course does not apply if you're leaving work for other reasons, such as education or travelling)

    Check your contract
You will need to look at your contract of employment to find out what your notice period is. This is the amount of time before you actually leave work that you must notify your employer that you are leaving. Most commonly, employee's are required to work a two week notice period. However, this will be longer if you've been working for the same company for a long time, or if you have a higher responsibility role.

You will also need to check if your new job conflicts with any restrictive covenants in your contract of employment. You may not be allowed to work for a competitor in the same area for a specific amount of time.

Durations may vary as to what is seen as ‘reasonable’. More commonly they are between 3, 6 or in some circumstances 12 months.

In some cases, your post termination clause(s) may be negated by your notice period. For senior members of staff, this could be 6 months, in which you may be put on garden leave, another measure in which your employer may take to protect aspects of the business. To find out more visit our page on garden leave.

    Write your resignation letter
You will need to write a very different letter, depending on the circumstances in which you're leaving, which we'll get to next.

    Call a meeting to hand in your notice
It's courteous to tell your boss that you're going before you hand in your formal letter of resignation. Email asking for a 15 minute chat. Be prepared to tell them what you're doing next (although, you don't have to give specific details) and why you're leaving, plus how you'll help with the transition through your notice period.

    Submit your formal resignation letter
This may be as simple as handing it to your boss at the end of your discussion, or you may need to email it to a higher up or to HR.

Writing a resignation letter


    How do I write a short letter of resignation?

Here are some basic points you should generally follow:
  • State the position you're resigning from and the effective date - You don't have to go into details here about your reasons for leaving, unless you need to list any grievances that you may later rely on in a tribunal.

  • Always say thank you. - Even if you're upset, or have been mistreated. Thank them for their support and mentoring, or for the opportunity(ies) they have given you during your service. The key is to find something positive and honest, to show that you respect the job you were doing.

  • Smooth the transition - Don't promise anything you can't deliver, just state your willingness to get your projects wrapped up and to help out with training other team members.

  • Wish the company well.


    How do I write a good resignation letter?

If you've followed the guide above, you've got an acceptable notice letter example. To make sure you leave on a good note, nurturing your professional relationship for the future, you can:

  • Give thanks for specific opportunities or events which were particularly poignant for you or your career,
  • Thank individual colleagues or mentors for specific occasions where their behaviour or conduct moved you.
  • Give specific well wishes to junior employees under your care or colleagues who are moving on to new roles.

On this same note, if you have feedback for your employer, this is an opportunity to list any unresolved grievances. You will need to weigh up the merits of raising these points, as you may not want to bring any conflict into the final stage of your employment. Furthermore, if your employer was not aware of any of these issues, they may resent not having been informed about them at the time. However, there are some very good reasons to give your employer constructive feedback:

  • Feedback is an essential part of improvement. Things cannot change for the better if we don't know what issues need attention.
  • You may be leaving but your team isn't going anywhere. If there are ongoing issues which have had unsatisfactory resolutions, you may be in a position to voice the concerns of your remaining colleagues, who may be more reluctant to push for a better outcome.
  • If there are matters of concern regarding discrimination, bullying, or an otherwise toxic working working environment, your feedback in your resignation letter may help others to build a case, to get these issues properly addressed, as your resignation letter is a formal document which can be used as evidence.
  • If you have faced any of these issues personally, you should mention this in your letter, in case you wish to bring a claim to employment tribunal in the future. Read on for how to write a resignation letter if you are leaving as a result of your employer's conduct.


    Can you immediately resign?

You can resign immediately without consequence if your contract states that you have no notice period. Otherwise, statutory notice period is 1 week, or longer, if your contract says so.

If you refuse to work your statutory or contractual notice period you may be in breach of contract. If this is the case you will waive your right to notice pay. This will likely also affect your reference and damage your professional relationships and reputation.

However, if your employer has breached the terms of your contract, including the implied term of mutual trust and confidence (any conduct by your employer which objectively is likely to destroy or severely damage the relationship of trust and confidence (regardless of their intent)). You are not under obligation to work a notice period. You can resign and claim constructive dismissal.

To claim constructive dismissal under common law you must not work a notice period. To claim under statute you can work a notice period. If you are claiming under statute you may wish to raise a grievance over the matter first. Employment Law Friend recommends that you tell your employer that you are 'working under protest' in your grievance letter. If the outcome of the grievance (and appeal) is unsatisfactory you can resign on grounds of constructive dismissal and work your notice period.

(Click here to read more about constructive dismissal, under common law or statute).

Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Your email should be sent to your line manager, and copied (Cc) to your Human Resources department. You should Cc or Bcc your personal email address so that you have a copy of your email, including the date it was sent.

Are you handing in your resignation letter?

If you are resigning due to problems at work, you may be owed compensation. There is much more to winning your case than simply being in the right, our specialist employment solicitors know all the laws and tactics, to make sure you get the best chance at a fair settlement. Get in contact with us and see how we can help.

Employment Law Specialist | Competitive Quotes | Straight Talking Legal Support

This content is provided free of charge for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of our company. For employment law advice you can click here to organise a meeting with one of our panel of employment law solicitors.

Find Out More:

Talk to a Professional

If you're handing in your resignation letter due to problems at work, we can help.

Just get in touch today to speak to one of our employment law specialists

Agree to Terms | Privacy Policy
We reply to all messages within 1 working day and will help wherever we can!
Employment Law Friend Privacy Promise
Employment Law Friend Privacy Promise

We promise not to share any of the information you provide to your employer.
What you tell us, stays between us.
We're loyal like that.

No Win No Fee Employment Solicitors from Employment Law Friend

Click for more information. Terms apply.