Working your notice. Includes how much notice you should give

working notice
When you resign from a job, you should always state in your resignation letter how much notice you are giving and when your last working day will be. If you are unsure as to how much notice should be given, always refer to your company's handbook or your contract for clarification.

If you are still unsure, the UK government's legal notice period guidelines are given below.

How much notice?

Your notice period will generally vary from one week to several months depending on your line of work and how long you have worked for the company.

Many companies will include a specific notice period in your contract in order to safeguard themselves as much as for your own benefit. If your job is fairly specialised, it is in their interest to include a longer notice period than usual, to give them enough time to find a suitable replacement and to cause as little disruption to the company as possible. It is also good protection for you, as it will give you longer to find another job in the case of being sacked.

UK government statutory notice period

If a notice period clause is absent from your contract, the statutory notice period is as follows and should be adhered to by both employer and employee:
  • 1 week's notice if you have been employed for any period of time between 1 month and 2 years.
  • 2 week's notice for 2 years of employment with an additional week for each year, up to 12 weeks.
Therefore, if you have been with the same company for 5 years, you should give a notice period of 5 weeks.

If your contract stipulates a different amount of time, your contract takes precedence over the government's minimum guidelines.

Work your full notice

In any case, you should always work through your full notice period, however much you may wish to leave earlier. This is for several reasons.

Firstly, you should want to leave your job on good terms. You need a glowing reference and you never know when you might bump in to your ex-employer or any of your old colleagues in the future. It's always a good idea never to burn any bridges. Maybe your new job won't be as great as you thought it might be and you may want to return to your previous job.

Secondly, if you do not work your full notice period, you will be in breach of your contract and your employer could sue. This is unlikely but not impossible, so bear this in mind. And finally, if you do not work the full notice, you may lose your entitlements to pay during your notice period, bonuses and other benefits.

Even though you have handed in your resignation, you are still under contractual laws to work the same hours right up until the day you leave. Just because you are heading off, it doesn't give you an excuse to slack off.

Agree to cut short

In some cases, you may be able to come to an agreement with your employer and leave your job early. It is generally accepted that if you ask to cut short your notice period, you will forfeit benefits such as being paid for the full notice time. However, if it is the other way round and your employer wants to show you the door before your time is up, then he will still have to pay you for the whole notice period.

Holiday time as notice

If you are owed any holiday time, in the UK, it is perfectly OK to take this as part of your notice period and still get paid for it. If you already have another job lined up, then this period will serve as a suitable break or "holiday" before you start your new job.

If you do not want to take your holiday time as part of your notice, you need to come to some agreement with your employer, as they are generally within their right to ask you to do so.

Gardening leave

Garden or gardening leave is when an employer that has resigned from his or her job is specifically asked to serve out the full notice period at home.

The employee would receive full pay and is not allowed to work for anyone during this period of time. This is common when the employer is leaving his or her job and is going to start working for a rival company and may have knowledge of sensitive or "secret" information as to the inside workings of the former company.

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