Wednesday, 21 November 2018 22:29

Quitting by Text Message

Insistence on written documents has given way to e-mails over recent years and now the likes of banks and even the Inland Revenue accept, and sometimes insist that communications are made electronically.

More recently still, mobile messaging and social media apps including text messaging and Whatsapp have become much more prevalent as businesses and organisation recognise their speed and effectiveness for communicating to employees and customers.

As mobile communication becomes engrained in organisational culture however, we recommend that a line is drawn and some communications are only ever be made as hard copy. An employee is unlikely to expect to receive his or her contract of employment as a text message, so when it comes to leaving the company it’s right that something as serious as a resignation should be formalised in a written and signed letter.

Text messaging, or SMS (Short Messaging Service), has been around for over twenty-five years, so texting and its derivatives are common forms of communication for many. Messages are usually read very soon after receipt, but they don’t necessarily interrupt the recipient unless he or she chooses to allow it.

It’s easy to understand why someone might choose to use a text message to deliver news that may not be welcomed by the recipient. Resignations and ‘calling in sick’ are classic examples. The message is effectively in writing, and the sender doesn’t have to be present or speak to anyone to deliver the news. However, apart from being impersonal and impolite, some reasons why we advise not to accept them for resignations at least include:

  • The text may have been sent ‘in the heat of the moment’ as a result of a disagreement or other situation that has disgruntled the employee. Has he or she simply reached for their mobile phone and ‘fired off’ a text as a way to let off steam?
  • Was the text actually sent by your employee? It could have been friends or colleagues just ‘having a laugh’, or more sinisterly, deliberately trying get the mobile phone owner into trouble.

Well worded clauses in your company handbook stating the company’s views on mobile messaging is a good idea, though make sure that your managers abide by the rules too. If accepting holiday requests by text becomes common practice, it may become too common to overturn if it is later decided that it isn’t acceptable.

You might even want to consider being specific about exactly what types of messaging are acceptable for what. Don’t forget that texts, Whatsapp messages and Tweets come with an in-built date and time stamp, and so can prove very useful if a timeline of events has to be substantiated; in a disciplinary case for example. Formal matters should always be supplemented by a written communication that requires a signature. No-one has ever been issued a ‘final texted warning’ after all and we don’t think we could get it to stand up as being part of the disciplinary process.

If you are the recipient of a resignation by text message, you should offer a meeting with your employee to establish if he or she deliberately sent the message and to discuss the issue. Perhaps allow a short period of time for them to reflect on their actions if you feel it is appropriate or that the text may have been a mistake in the heat of the moment.

If the resignation is genuine then write to the employee reminding them of their contractual notice period and ask for a formal letter of resignation on paper for your own administrative purposes and so that you can confidently fulfil your duties to the inland revenue and issue a P45.

If you would like support and advice regarding what is and isn’t acceptable as a text or mobile message, call us on 01452 331331 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Read 10339 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 February 2024 15:36


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