In English v Manulife Financial Corporation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice considered whether an employee who has voluntarily resigned may later rescind her notice of resignation or retirement. The court found that while an employer may voluntarily accept such a rescission, it is not required to do so.

In the present case, the plaintiff, Ms. English, provided her supervisor with a written notice of retirement effective approximately three months from the date it was provided. At this time discussions took place between the plaintiff and her supervisor in which he stated words to the effect of "If you change your mind, you can rescind [your notice] or reconsider it". As a result of this discussion, the plaintiff believed the she could rescind her resignation until the effective date of her retirement.

The plaintiff's decision to retire was motivated, at least in part, by an upcoming conversion of all of Manulife's customer information to a new computer system. Roughly a month after the plaintiff provided her notice, Manulife elected to suspend this conversion indefinitely. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff informed her supervisor that she was withdrawing her notice of retirement because Manulife was no longer proceeding with the conversion. One month later, the plaintiff was informed that the rescission of her resignation would not be accepted.

The plaintiff filed a claim for wrongful dismissal seeking 16 months' pay-in-lieu of notice.

Justice Edwards held that a clear, unequivocal, and voluntary notice of resignation from an employee that is accepted by an employer forms a binding contract between the parties. In further good news for employers, the court held that the fact that the employer had not relied on Ms. Edwards' notice to its detriment did not give rise to an obligation to allow the plaintiff to rescind her notice.

As a best practice, employers should ensure that employee resignations are provided in writing and provide a written acceptance of the notice of resignation.

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