What to do when an employee resigns

Last updated:
July 23, 2021
December 20, 2021
min read
Sim Samra
Table of contents

It’s going to happen. However you feel about your business operation and environment; your employees will, at some point, resign.

It won’t necessarily boil down to being unhappy with you; it could just as easily be that they’ve landed a position elsewhere with a better role, prospects, salary, or conditions. Alternatively, their situation may have changed, and they’re moving away from the area; or perhaps it’s simply time for a change of scenery.

Whatever the reason, there should be a detailed protocol in place for both parties to adhere to.

In this article, we look at the essential parts of the process and how it should be managed.

Building your checklist

Every business will have its unique systems and procedures. For you to create an all-encompassing checklist, you’ll have to consider every angle of your business operation, as well as all legal implications.

You need to collect and keep a great deal of information covering the different stages of the resignation. You will be expected to carry out interviews to keep the process flowing, and to prevent you from missing vital steps or overlooking necessary action or updates.

You have a limited amount of time to fulfill each obligation—so efficiency and organization are paramount.

The initial discussion

It doesn’t matter how your employee chooses to let you know that they’re leaving, it’s up to you to take the reigns and manage the situation as professionally as possible.

Taking time to hold a face-to-face, private conversation with them is your first step. There may be issues that they won’t want to share with other staff. Show them the respect they deserve and keep your relationship on good terms as much as possible.

  • Acquiring the formal resignation

Discuss their reasons for leaving and request their formal resignation in writing. You also need to talk about what happens next, how the process will proceed, what you will require from them, and their responsibilities to you.

Include the protocols involved in the lead-up to them leaving, their final day, and what to expect at their exit interview.

  • Working notice

Their employment contract will have already dictated the amount of notice they’ll have to work. Make sure they know which items you expect them to complete and the steps involved in handing over their existing responsibilities.

Collecting company property

If you allocate your staff equipment, passes, or other company property required to carry out their role, then they need to bring it back. Supply them with an all-inclusive list, so there’s no chance of items not being returned.

Your list should include computers, cell phones, credit cards, keys, company cars, and anything else you’ve supplied or paid for.

Withdrawing employee access

  • Physical and digital access

Employees now have access to far more than just your business premises or offices. Most employees have access to company files, computer networks, email accounts, websites, and digital marketing platforms.

As well as having them return their keys, you must remove their details where they have access to the building using a key-card or passcode.

You need to remove accounts from network administration points, databases, and more. You should create forwarders for email accounts and company mobile numbers. Ideally, these should pass to another staff member or account, with passwords and access removed for the existing employee.

Administer all paperwork

There are several forms to complete before your employee’s departure. Make sure all legal paperwork is covered well in advance of saying your goodbyes.

You should update their contact details, including possible changes of address, and where to forward final paychecks and payslips.

You should also write to them, outlining the current state of any employee benefits where provided. Health insurance, pension payments, retirement plans are the most obvious. However, your business may offer further benefits that will cease if you're not planning on passing them over to the employee.

Holding an exit interview

It’s imperative to hold an exit interview. Where your business has an HR department, a member should be available to guide the meeting.

This should be a two-way discussion to answer questions where either party has concerns. Any reviews or specifications covered by the employment contract also need to be addressed.

  • Turning a negative into a positive

When the legal aspects are complete, this is a great opportunity to gather information about your business operation. You should part on the best terms possible, and if appropriate, ask about how the employee felt about their time working with you. You could glean a great deal of valuable information by doing so. It could help streamline your process or improve staff care and control in the future.

Informing other employees

As well as letting HR know so they can commence the legal and administration parts of the process, your remaining staff will also need to know what’s happening. You will need to create a contingency plan to manage the departing employee’s responsibilities until you can replace them, or find another way to distribute their workload permanently.

It’s also important to manage their workload fairly as not to impact on the remaining staff’s operation. Being open and honest and showing transparency to your remaining staff members will buy respect. It could even pull you closer together as a team.

Informing customers and clients

Letting your exiting employees' clients know about the upcoming changes, in as much time as possible, will create the opportunity for a smooth transfer. Introduction meetings, conference calls, or emails will allow clients a chance to ask any questions or air concerns.

Updating your records

Most modern businesses operate on digital systems and platforms, as well as payroll and employment records. You will also need to update any additional platforms that include the member of staff.

You must keep a full record of the resignation process from start to completion. Be sure to keep copies of all written documents and emails passed between parties. You may need to rely on these if problems occur or disciplinary action is brought to the fore at any point down the line.

Payroll records must be kept for a specific number of years, depending on your operation location. There will also be various other legal updates to make regarding the resignation and employment status.

Delivery of final pay and payslip

You may be in a position to deliver both of these at the exit interview. However, in many cases where payroll operates on a specific day each month, it may not be possible. Your payroll department may need to finalize bonus payments or commission, holiday pay, or time-off that’s unaccounted for.


The devil’s in the details, as they say, so making sure your resignation checklist covers every angle you need it to cover is essential.

It doesn’t matter whether this is your first loss or one in a list of many; losing a member of your team needs to be handled professionally and systematically. Only by taking the considered steps your business needs, can you create a clear path when it comes to phasing out employees with the minimum impact on your operations.

Get the

Get the exclusive tips, resources and updates to help you hire better!

Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linked In
Go to the top

Hire better, faster, together!

Bring your hiring teams together, boost your sourcing, automate your hiring, and evaluate candidates effectively.