Think you can resign to avoid being dismissed? You’d be wrong.
Employees are taking to resignation as a way of avoiding the sting of being dismissed, but as Nicol Myburgh, Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, points out, this is not an approach that’s going to work. In fact, if a person has such a poor track record of performance or behaviour that they sit on the cusp of being dismissed, this will reflect on whether or not they use this company as a reference in the future.
“People think that the benefit of leaving before employment is terminated is that they won’t have a dismissal on their record,” he adds. “However, the reality is that there is no permanent record – it doesn’t exist. The issue really lies with references and, if they’ve left under a cloud, it’s unlikely they’re going to even use this company as a reference. And if they did, it wouldn’t matter.”
What’s interesting about this situation is that companies aren’t allowed to give overwhelmingly negative references. The worst they can do is say that X employee worked for the company from X date to Y date, and that’s as bad as it will get. So, if a person resigns instead of being fired and then uses the company as a reference, the company can’t slander them anyway, at least not without exposing themselves to undue risk of the employee potentially making a civil claim.
“People should ask themselves why they are going through the whole resignation process when this can take away their options,” says Myburgh. “If they believe they have been unfairly dismissed, they can take their case to the CCMA and discuss the dismissal, but if they resign, it’s their problem. They’ve closed the door themselves.”
However, for many people, resignation is a far easier choice. The process of dismissal can be difficult and unpleasant which can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing. Even if the dismissal doesn’t necessarily impact the person’s career or references, they may want to leave the situation as quickly as possible. That said, if the working situation is tenable, it can be in the employee’s favour to stay at the company and go through the process, as they’ll be employed – and have a guaranteed salary – for longer.
“Another area that needs to be considered by both the employee and the company is if an employment contract has a notice period,” says Myburgh. “If a person has to work a notice period before they can leave their job, then the situation becomes trickier. The company can force the person to work out this notice time, but it can become very unpleasant for everyone involved. It’s often not worth it for the company to put both the employee and the other members of staff in an untenable situation.”
This can vary, of course, according to the unique business situation. If that employee occupies a high-end role and can’t be easily replaced without loss of income, the situation will need to be handled differently. But, in most cases, the departure of an employee in these circumstances is best made as smooth as possible to make life easier on every side.
“Whether they are resigning or being dismissed, the important question here is to ask which step is in the best interests of the company’s culture and the employee’s wellbeing,” concludes Myburgh. “If a person genuinely can’t handle the environment, then leaving early will benefit them. But they must remember that resignation removes options, so think carefully before taking this step.”