What is a notice period?

Nobody likes it when you leave without saying goodbye…

Whether you’re leaving a company after a few years, or you’ve only been there a month – understanding your employee rights and obligations when it comes to your notice period is vital. Not only will it help you to secure a new position, it’ll also ensure you don’t burn any bridges with your last one.

To make sure you’re doing yours right, here’s everything you need to know about leaving notice periods:


What is a leaving notice period?

A notice period is the amount of time an employee has to give their company before leaving a job.

If an employer gives a letter of dismissal or redundancy to an employee, they must also provide them with a fair leaving notice period before their employment ends.

This allows time for you to find a new position, or for the employer to replace you.


How much notice do I need to give?

The length of your work notice period depends on your job, and the company you work for.

If you’re unsure of yours, it’s always best to check your contract or employee handbook. If it isn’t clear, the law states that you’ll be required to work a minimum of one week (providing you’ve been employed for a month or more).

However, if you’re in a particularly senior role, or you’ve worked at a company for a while – you might be expected to give more notice; especially if you want to leave your employer on good terms.


How do I hand in my notice letter?

Although handing in your work notice seems like a relatively simple process; if done wrong – it could create a potentially awkward situation (not to mention burn valuable bridges).

To make sure you’re doing it right, here are our tips on how to handle it:

  • Put it in writing
  • Include the essentials (your name, date, position, your manager’s name, when the resignation will take effect, and your signature)
  • Be constructive and professional with your reasoning
  • Thank your employer
  • Tie up any loose ends

Resignation letter: What you need to know

How to resign


How much notice should my employer give me?

This will vary from company to company, but should be stated in your contract.

However, there is a legal minimum that all employers have to follow when dismissing an employee.

These are:

  • If you’ve been employed for 1 month – 2 years: they should give you 1 weeks’ notice.
  • If you’ve been employed for 2 years – 12 years: they should give you 1 weeks’ notice for every year worked.

The only time an employer will be able to dismiss you without notice is if you’ve carried out gross misconduct (e.g. theft, violence, serious breaches in health and safety etc.)

How to deal with losing your job


What is ‘gardening leave’?

In some industries, staying at a company you’re planning to leave could put their sensitive information at risk; whether it’s through sharing upcoming business plans with a potential competitor or taking their clients with you to your new role.

To prevent this, an employer might ask you to take ‘gardening leave’, meaning you’ll be required to stay away from work for the length of your work notice period – but you’ll still receive the same pay and company benefits.

Your employer also has the right to bring you back to work if needed.


Will I get paid during my notice period?

You’ll be entitled to regular pay and benefits throughout your notice period.

However, if you fail to work the amount of time specified by your employer (and the law) – you’ll automatically lose the right to be paid.

And, by breaching the terms of your contract – your employer could decide to take legal action.


What is ‘payment in lieu of notice’?

In some situations, an employer may ask you to leave as soon as resignation or dismissal notice has been given.

This means that you’ll receive full pay and benefits for your notice period (whether it’s a week or a month) without staying at work.

In order for this to be an option, ‘payment in lieu of notice’ must be specified in your contract.

If it’s not, an employer can still offer it to you – but will only be able to enforce it if you accept their proposal.


Can I shorten my work notice period?

Although it might not always be an option – there are few ways to reduce the length of time you’re required to stay at your current job.

Whether you’re able to do it will often depend on the terms of your contract, your reasons for leaving, and your employer’s willingness to waive it.

For example:

  • You can use remaining holiday to make up some of your notice
  • If your employer has breached your contract, you can end your contract without notice
  • If you’ve been dismissed, you can give a counter-notice to leave sooner

To find out if you’re able to shorten your notice period, ask your employer directly.

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