Legal Updates

Guidance for employers and employees during the resignation process.


After watching Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern step down from her role as Prime Minister in January, we considered it an appropriate time to provide some guidance to both employees and employers about the resignation process in New Zealand.

Resignation is a process where an employee voluntarily terminates their employment agreement with their employer. While resignations are a common and relatively straightforward process across New Zealand workplaces, there are some important considerations that both employees and employers should take into account.



·         Your resignation must be given to your employer in writing. You must provide the notice period specified in your employment agreement. If there is no notice period in the employment agreement, then fair and reasonable notice must be given (usually 2 to 4 weeks’ notice, depending on the role).

·         You may be restricted from resigning if you are on a fixed-term contract with a specified end date. If you resign before the end date, you may be liable to your employer for breach of contract.

·         Be mindful of provisions in your employment agreement that outlive the term of your employment, such as confidentiality and non-competition clauses.

·         If you think you may have said or done something that could be interpreted as a resignation (after an argument with your employer for example) but you didn’t mean to, you should talk to your employer and correct this misunderstanding as soon as possible. If you don’t do this within a reasonable time, then it may be reasonable for the employer to act on the basis that you have resigned.

·         You may request a written or verbal reference if you are intending to start a new job. You may also request an exit interview or be asked to attend one. Ensure you remain professional in any exit interview you have with your employer: you are still obliged to act in good faith towards your employer during your notice period.



·         Once your employee has resigned and given you as much notice as required (refer to the employee’s employment agreement), you must accept the resignation request, (you can do this by issuing them a letter confirming this), calculate and pay them their final pay, and collect any company property they may possess.

·         Your usual duties (including acting in good faith) as an employer continue to apply until the employee’s final day. This means you should not take any adverse action against employees who resign, such as altering their duties, as this may give rise to a personal grievance claim.

·         If an employee appears to have resigned, but it is unclear (e.g. they storm out of the workplace after an argument), you should allow time (at least 24 hours) for the employee to cool off before you ask the employee to confirm whether they do want to resign and then put it in writing.

·         Unless it is specifically covered in their employment agreement, there is no legal obligation to give an employee a reference. If you choose to, you must provide true information about the employee, or you may risk damaging your own reputation.


Employers and employees both have obligations at the end of an employment relationship. Both parties should take care to handle the resignation process in a professional and respectful manner. As always, parties need to act in good faith towards each other and communicate clearly.


The team at Ford Sumner assist both employees and employers with a variety of employment issues. If you need advice on your rights and obligations when resigning from your job, or if you have an employee that has resigned and you are not sure what next steps you should take, get in touch as we can help: Jaesen Sumner, Ruth Williams, Lucy Aitken.