Previous case law has established that in special circumstances notice given in the ‘heat of the moment' can be retracted, but the EAT has held in Willoughby v CF Capital plc UKEAT/0503/09 that such retractions are only possible in exceptional cases.
In the context of potential redundancies, CF Capital and its employee, Mrs Willoughby ("Mrs W") discussed the possibility of terminating Mrs W's employment and re-engaging her on a self-employed basis. Before coming to any final agreement, CF Capital sent Mrs W notice of termination and details of a new agreement. Rather than accept the new agreement, Mrs W considered herself dismissed despite CF Capital saying that if she did not wish to become self-employed the employment relationship would continue. The Tribunal held that, given the discussions that preceded the notice of termination, special circumstances existed sufficient to retract it.
The EAT overturned the Tribunal's decision, holding the dismissal to be effective. Something exceptional was required for special circumstances to exist. The notice of termination was not made irrationally; it had been clear and unambiguous and as a general rule employers and employees should be taken to mean what they say.