You've landed a new dream job and you can't wait to get started, but annoyingly you have to give notice. So how do you do it? And what are the implications of leaving before your notice period?
How to give notice
Legally, as long as you've been at your job a month, you have to give at least one week's notice, although your contract will often specify longer - usually at least a month.
It's tempting to think you've got nothing to lose if you simply stop coming to work, but failing to complete your notice period could see you ending up in court. So book an appointment with your boss and, in the nicest possible way, tell them you're leaving.
Can I leave before my notice period?
In short, not really.
"Leaving before your notice period has finished is a breach of contract," says Sue Terry from Acas. "Companies can take former employees to the civil court to recoup costs associated with them leaving before their notice period is up."
Leaving before your notice period can also affect your reference. "Future employers will often ask for references from previous employers, and they need to be factual and fair," says Sue. "If you leave before your contract expires, then it could be put on a reference."
How to leave early
"In some jobs, such as sales, they may want you to leave early to stop you taking customers away," explains Sue.
If you're moving to work for a competitor, you may be asked to leave to prevent you accessing confidential company information. It may also be that if you've finished what you were working on, your employer may be happy to release you early to save paying you when there isn't the work to give you.
Remember that if you leave early, you won't be paid for the time you don't work - unless your employee has asked you to leave (in which case they'll pay you in lieu of notice).
Working out your notice period
Just because you've handed in your notice, this doesn't mean the terms and conditions of your contract have changed. This applies on both sides: you still need to work the hours contracted and your employer still needs to honour any sick and holiday pay. Your outstanding holidays can be taken as part of your notice period.
But equally, an employer has a duty to treat you fairly up until the day you leave. So if you suddenly find yourself being bullied or discriminated against because of your decision to leave then you have the same rights to take action against the employer.
Dos and don'ts of resigning
- Try to leave on good terms - even if it's through gritted teeth
- Check if company perks still apply in your notice period. Your contract, company handbook or intranet should spell this out
- Help prepare for your departure - you may need to write handover notes or help train someone else
- Swipe confidential information belonging to your employer - which could include your contacts book or client list
- Be a moaner - you're fed up with the place but your colleagues have to stay there
- Stop making an effort - you may have quit, but you still need to earn that last pay packet. And you can still get sacked, even if you've resigned!
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