Employee resignations can range from tearful good-byes between workmates and no notice and slammed doors. It goes without saying that amicable resignations are the most desirable outcome, but either way, you need to know what’s expected of you as the employer when a resignation occurs.

Ideally, the employee should provide written notice of their resignation, with the required notice period provided. The Modern Award or agreement will set out the required notice periods for employees.

As an example (and most awards have similar requirements), a full-time or part-time employee is required to provide the following notice periods under the General Retail Award 2010:

Period of continuous service Minimum notice period
 1 year or less

 1 week

 More than 1 year – 3 years  2 weeks
 More than 3 years – 5 years  3 weeks
 More than 5 years  4 weeks


The notice period begins on the day after the notice has been provided and ends on the last day of employment. Under the General Retail Award 2010, there are also consequences if the full or part-time employee does not give the employer the correct amount of notice, which allows the employer to:

  • deduct up to 1 week’s wages if the employee has not provided the required notice,

but, only where the employee is over 18 years of age, and the deduction isn’t otherwise unreasonable. This deduction is ONLY allowed to be taken from any outstanding award wages, not from outstanding leave accrued or any other payments due.

Many awards vary in this aspect of what happens where the required notice isn’t provided so you must refer to the relevant award or agreement in this scenario.

Notice periods don’t apply to casual employees, or to those who have come to the end of a seasonal contract, for example.

Despite the common stories about ‘not accepting someone’s resignation’ this is not permitted. Employers must accept an employee’s resignation. You can, however, discuss with the employee whether there are changes or opportunities to keep them on, should you be interested in doing so.

In some scenarios, there may be ‘heat of the moment’ decisions to resign. In this scenario, employers should be aware that should the employee decide to rescind their resignation, it’s possible they should return to their role. There are cases of unfair dismissal decisions, where the employer has not allowed an employee to return after a ‘heat of the moment’ decision, and this has been considered ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable.’ It’s a good idea to get specific advice in these scenarios, along with confirming with the employee their intentions to resign.

Occasionally, you may not want an employee to work through the notice period they have provided. In this case, you need to refer to the relevant award for any required conditions to do so. Alternatively, you may be able to come to an agreement with the employee to pay them out for their notice period instead.

It’s useful to hold an exit interview with all employees who leave your organisation, to get their feedback on their role, relationships within the business and opportunities for improvement.

Employee resignations aren’t always as straightforward as you may think. If you’re unsure about an employee’s resignation, get in touch with our Workplace Partners.


* This is general information only and doesn’t take your specific circumstances into account.