How to resign

Resigning is never an easy thing to do, but sometimes it’s what you need to do. So, how do you go about it? Keep things professional and leave on a positive note. That way, if you ever need references or a contact in the future, the door will always be open for you. Read on to find out more about how to resign.

A young woman looked up how to resign. This is a wide-angle image.

How much notice to resign?

The length of the notice period for handing in a resignation can vary depending on your employer and the contractual notice obligation in your contract of employment.

  • If you’re still on probation, you’re likely to be able to terminate the contract with immediate effect.
  • Unless you can get your employer to waive your notice period, you’re legally obliged to work it. Maintaining a positive spirit during this time is usually best.
  • Even if you don’t have a written contract, a verbal contract counts in law. You might have agreed to let your boss have a week’s notice, or to complete certain jobs. And if you don’t honour a verbal resignation, you’re liable to lose out on a last paycheque. We’d still recommend writing a letter though, since this can help avoid any misunderstandings.
  • Do you know what’s next? If not, remember you won’t be able to start claiming JSA or universal credit immediately. Unless you can prove you were forced to resign (very difficult to do!)

How to tell your boss you’re quitting

Forget about figuring out the technicalities of how to resign, what about having *that* conversation with your boss? Well, here’s how to do it: 

  • Book a meeting with them. Preferably in someplace private.
  • Prepare your opening speech in advance, and practise with a friend.
  • Try to anticipate your boss’s reaction, and know how you would respond.
  • Resist the urge to make any personal remarks, or turn it into a grand gesture. So try saying “I’ve decided to tender my resignation from my position.” Instead of “You’ve ruined my life, you complete and utter ass!”.
  • Be positive about your time at work. Remember, you’ll probably need a reference from them at some point. 
  • Stick to your story. Your boss may try to get you to divulge your real reasons for quitting but you gotta stay strong when handing in your notice.

And if you need some more help, check out The Mix’s tips on giving notice at work here.

How to resign with immediate effect

If you’re wondering how to resign with immediate effect, for example due to medical reasons or a family issue, it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is write a formal letter of resignation. From there, your boss can’t refuse your resignation or do anything to stop it.

If you’re comfortable discussing the specifics of your situation it may help your case to include them. Just keep in mind that it might be against the terms of your contract of employment to leave immediately. Luckily, your boss can excuse you on compassionate grounds. 

On the other hand, if you constantly dream of storming out because you absolutely hate your job, keep it as a dream. It’s really better to try to stick out your notice period. That way you can avoid any bad blood and/or bad references. While you’re waiting it out, check out our survival tips if you hate your job here.

Garden leave

Depending on your job, you may be asked to take garden leave instead of working a notice period. Unfortunately this isn’t quite the same as resigning with immediate effect. Basically, garden leave is a period of time in which you can’t start a new job AND you have to take leave from your old one. Generally this only applies to jobs in finance and similar roles where there’s a big risk of leaking information to a competitor. It’s also worth mentioning that your boss might still ask you to work whilst on garden leave. It’s totally up to your employer to decide.

Should I do an exit interview?

Some employers conduct exit interviews as part of company policy. Others may offer you one for a number of reasons. Keep in mind, you’re not entitled to an exit interview, but if you have something constructive to say then you might want to ask for one. Some things to know are: 

  • You might wanna keep your reasons for leaving to yourself, which you’re entitled to do.
  • Exit interviews are a forum for you to offer constructive feedback to your employer. This helps them to learn from your experience of working for them.
  • Some employers take the results of exit interviews very seriously, and might go to senior executive and/or attempt to change policy on the basis of what is said.
  • Resist the if I-ran-the-company approach. If you’ve only been there six months, now is not the time to have a mega-ego boost.
  • Prepare your comments in advance, and be specific. If you feel that your employer is doing something wrong, don’t be afraid to tell them. Give an example of how you experienced this, and how you feel it could have been done differently. But whatever you do, don’t drag others into your complaint, as they have to carry on working once you’ve left.

Working out your notice period

If you find pretending to be busy/nice a bit boring, then you might consider the following:

  • Ensure that your salary settlement is agreed.
  • Work hard to finish your outstanding projects, and arrange to hand over unfinished work to your colleagues. Try not to leave a mountain of unfinished work behind you.
  • If you’ve been there long enough, make time to say goodbye to your colleagues. They’ll appreciate the effort, and you might get a better leaving present.
  • Organise leaving drinks for the day before you go. This’ll prevent you from losing your cool so close to the finish line, because you’ll have to show up for your final day at work.
  • Get the contact details of anybody you want to keep in touch with, whether for personal reasons or because you might need them in the future. Network, network, network!
  • If you’ve got a great new job to go to, keep it on the dl.
  • Congratulate yourself on a job well undone. Buy something expensive.

Next Steps


leaving work

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 08-Jun-2022