Rescinding a Notice to Retire?

Recently the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was called upon to render a decision on an issue I encounter more often than I thought I would in my practice - can an employee, who has announced an intention to resign - change his or her mind and retract the resignation or retirement?

English v Manulife Corporation, 2018 ONSC 5135, determined that despite the sensitive nature of retirement that the basic common law contract principles apply: an employee may not rescind a notice of retirement that the employer has accepted.

The facts though, in English were unique and made the plaintiff particularly sympathetic. Part of the reason the plaintiff decided to retire was that she did not wish to be trained on a new computer system. After she announced her retirement, the company changed its mind and decided not to implement the change after all. At that point the plaintiff tried to rescind her retirement and continue in her position.

Despite the employer not proceeding with the computer change that precipitated the plaintiff's retirement, the Court stuck by contract principles that once the resignation or retirement was accepted, it formed a binding contract between the parties, and that detrimental reliance on the employee's resignation or retirement was not necessary. Of course the employer could have voluntarily allowed her to rescind the retirement, but it was under no legal obligation to do so.

For employees - be careful, be sure, and consider a conditional resignation.

For employers - accept a resignation in writing and know that detrimental reliance may not be required to create a legally binding resignation.

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