Notice periods: Expert HR guidance

by | May 21, 2020 | Blog

This article provides HR guidance on notice periods and what to do when a member of your team hands their notice in.

Notice from employers:

  • If an employee has been employed for one month or more, an employer must give a week’s notice per complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

Notice from employees:

  • Employees must give at least one week’s notice if they have been employed for more than a month.

You can, however, impose greater notice requirements in contracts of employment, with it being common for contractual notice periods to be longer than the statutory minimum (which ‘trump’ the statutory notice periods).  Employers are not able to give less than the statutory notice periods.

An employee might wish to leave earlier (eg if they have a new job to go to) and this can be agreed and the notice period can be waived if both parties agree.

How to give notice
Our first tip is to ensure your contracts of employment stipulate that notice must be given in writing and make it clear whether this can be via text or some other form of messaging service.

Also, ensure your letter confirming the last day of employment is set out.   For calculating the termination date, the day the employee gives notice (or vice versa) is not counted, so if notice is given on Monday, 14th December 2020, then the termination date will be Monday, 21st December 2020.

Can notice be withdrawn?
Notice cannot be withdrawn without the agreement of the other party.   So think about this if an employee resigns after a fall out or when emotions are running high, and consider if the notice given was valid.

What about pay in lieu of notice?
The type of clause can bring the employment contract to an immediate end.  In order to do this, you must have a PILON clause in employee’s contracts.

Are there any exceptions?
Yes, in the following circumstances.

  • Fixed term contracts – where there is a fixed term contract in place the contract will automatically end at the end of the period, and legally no notice is required.  However, our advice would be to meet with the employee in advance of the contract expiring to discuss the contract end.
  • Gross misconduct – an employee can be dismissed without notice if he/she is found to have committed an act found to be classified as gross misconduct.

An employee has handed their notice in, what should I do?

  • Always ask the individual to put their resignation in writing, including indicating the date they will be leaving the business. This will help resolve any future disputes over the exact date of resignation and the start of any notice period.
  • Confirm the employee’s notice period.
  • Organise a handover period.
  • Arrange an exit interview.
  • It is important to part on good terms. You never know the person leaving may become a business contact in future.
  • Be clear on any expectations relating to a job reference.
  • Don’t forget to thank them for all of their hard work and wish them all the best in their new job.

What if the employee does not wish to work their notice period?

Once a member of staff confirms their resignation in writing, you can’t refuse their right to leave.  It is advisable to ask why your employee wishes to leave without working their full notice period.  You could let the individual leave early and this would save you paying them during their notice period.

However, if they have told you that they have no intention of working their notice period, then the employee is breaching their contract and would not be paid for any time they do not work.  Some contracts have an express clause that allows you to deduct pay from an employee not working their notice, to cover costs you incur such as taking on temporary staff.

There are times when an employee leaving can cause a lot of disruption for your business, and you can take this to court for breaching their contract.   Like any other court proceedings this can be a costly and lengthy process.  If you are claiming the employee leaving suddenly put your business at a loss, then you will be asked by the courts to prove this.

We hope this guidance on notice periods has cleared up any confusion you may have had, as always if you require any further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us!