A Guide to Your Notice Period
What You Need to Know
- Your contract will outline exactly how much notice you are obliged to give before leaving.
- You are normally expected to work through your notice period, but often employers will willingly cut this period short.
- Your employer also has to give you notice if they want to let you go. The legal minimum is 1 week if you’ve worked for them for less than two years. If you’ve worked two years, you’ll get 2 weeks notice, with an extra week for every additional year you’ve been employed, up to 12 weeks.
- If you work with sensitive information the company wouldn’t want outsiders to see, you may be offered gardening leave. This means you will be expected to stay away from work until you join your new job. You will be paid during this period.
- Holiday pay can often be a grey area. If you have outstanding holiday pay available when you decide to leave, you may be able to take pay in lieu of the time off. However, if you’re asked to take it during your notice period, you will normally have to do so.
- If you are worried and haven’t received official confirmation of redundancy yet you may want to consider Income and Mortgage Protection Insurance its free to get a quote.
- If your salary is partly formed by bonuses, check your contract to see if these are awarded quarterly or annually. You may have to tactically time your resignation to ensure you still receive your bonus.
If you’ve found a new job and want to move on to fresh pastures, there are a few things that you’ll need to take care of. As well as organising your leaving party, there are several work-related issues concerning pay, your notice period, holidays and bonuses that you will need to clarify before you leave. This is the time to dust down your employment contract and have a good read.
Your Employment Contract
Your employment contract should state how much notice you must give when you want to resign. This can vary from a few weeks to several months depending on your status and the length of time you’ve worked for your employer.
You are normally expected to work through your notice before leaving the company. However, in some cases, either you or your employer will want to cut short the notice period so that you can leave more quickly.
The general – although by no means universal – rule is that if you ask your employer if you can leave before your notice is up, you should not expect to get paid for the part of your notice you don't serve. On the other hand, if your employer asks you to leave early, they would have to pay you for the full notice period. Remember, though, that this is a general rule only and you will have to refer to your own contract to confirm this.
Your Statutory Notice Period
Notice periods apply to both employers and employees. Just as you're required to give a certain amount of notice if you want to leave, your employer has to give you notice if they're going to let you go.
According to the Government’s Business Link website, the minimum legal notice period given by both employees and employers is:
- One week's notice if the employee has been employed by the employer continuously for one month or more, but for less than two years.
- Two weeks' notice if the employee has been employed by the employer continuously for two years, and one additional week's notice for each further complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
However, employers can include longer notice periods in contracts, so double check yours before handing in your notice.
You may be lucky enough to be offered “gardening leave” by your company. This means you must serve out a period of notice at home and still receive salary and benefits. You can’t start your new job until the gardening leave period – which can be several months – has expired.
You might be offered gardening leave if you have access to confidential information or customers and are leaving to join a rival firm, as it gives your current employer time to protect sensitive information that you could otherwise use in your next job.
Your Final Pay Cheque
With many companies, salary is paid monthly in arrears on the last day of each month. If you're resigning from your job, you will not collect your last pay packet on your last day at work, but a month later. If you want the money immediately, you may be able to change the date you get paid by talking to your manager or HR department.
When you resign, you may have leave owing to you. For example, if your notice period is four weeks and you've calculated that you have five working days’ holiday to take before you leave the company, you need to clarify whether you must take that week's holiday in your notice period or whether you can get paid for it instead.
If you have holiday days left over when you hand in your notice, your employer can force you take your holiday in your notice period. If your boss asks you to take your holiday and you refuse, your manager may be able to withhold any money in lieu of holiday to which you would have been entitled.
If your boss does not demand that you to take your holiday allocation, you have two options. The first is to take your holiday as part of your notice period. Alternatively, if you don't want to take your holidays you may receive compensation in lieu of holiday. Bank holidays are not normally counted as days for which a company needs to reimburse you.
To clarify any further grey areas, such as if you have holiday carried over from a previous year, talk to your boss or HR department.
Once you’ve resigned, make sure you put in a claim for any outstanding expenses.
Working Out Your Bonus
If part of your salary is paid as a bonus, calculating how much you are entitled to can be a tricky affair. Firms use bonus payments to engender loyalty among staff or as an incentive to meet targets. For example, your employer may run a bonus scheme that is paid relating to the amount of profit the company made in the last financial year. You need to know whether you have to wait until the end of the year before resigning. Even if bonuses are paid out quarterly, you need to find out whether you should wait until the end of the next quarter before handing in your notice.
These details should be in your employment contract, but have a word with the HR department if you’re unsure.
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- Read our guide to covering letters, to make applying for your new role less of a struggle.
- The government's employment page has more advice on notice periods.