Nowadays, people don’t really have a job for life.
They move away, get a new job, or have kids. Markets shift, recessions hit, pandemics break. Circumstances change from one day to the next. And sometimes – for better or for worse – people have to part ways with their employer.
But if you’re leaving a job, you’ll probably have questions like “how do I calculate my notice period?”, “what’s the statutory minimum?”, and “what am I legally entitled to?”
If any of these have crossed your mind, then stick around. We’ll do our best to fill in the blanks, so you’ll know exactly what to expect from your employer – and what your employer expects from you.
How to calculate how much notice you have to give
This depends on how long you’ve been employed. Generally speaking, the longer your employment, the longer your notice period is.
Chances are, it’s already laid out in your employment contract. Look for clauses that talk about ending your contract, termination, or your notice period. You don’t want to end up as a breach of contract – you should give the right amount of written notice if you don’t want any trouble.
If you can't find any or haven't got a written contract, you'll be expected to serve the statutory minimum notice period, which is listed as follows:
- Less than 1 month – zero notice
- 1 month to 2 years – at least one week’s notice
- 2 years to 12 years – one week’s notice for each year
- 12 years or more – capped at 12 weeks’ notice
If you’re unsure, cast your eyes over Section 86 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Contract usually have a longer notice period than the statutory minimum (e.g. one or two month’s notice instead of 7 days’ notice).
You can give more notice if you like, and your employer can’t force you to leave any earlier. If you hand in a resignation letter for 6 months’ time, they can’t chuck you out after 2 – you’d have a good case for unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal if that were to happen.
What about fixed term contracts?
If you’re on a fixed term contract (like an apprenticeship) that’s been agreed for a certain length of time, there’s no need to give notice at the end. You simply work up to the last day then leave.
If you want to leave before the end of the agreed duration (and you haven’t signed a contract saying otherwise) then you should give at least 1 week’s notice if you’ve worked for them a month or more.
On the employer side, they’ll have to follow the same regulations as they would with permanent employees. If you’re being dismissed, it has to be fair. According to Gov.uk, ”if the employee has 2 years’ service the employer needs to show that there’s a ‘fair’ reason for not renewing the contract (eg, if they were planning to stop doing the work the contract was for).”
Getting paid during your notice period
Remember: you’re entitled to your normal pay during your notice period – even if you’re sent packing with a box of your belongings and told never to come back.
This means you’ll get your normal salary, or if your pay periodically fluctuates, a weekly average is calculated instead.
This is how you calculate the weekly average:
- If you were paid £6,000 over 12 weeks, you’d divide the £6,000 between 12 – leaving you with a weekly average of £500.
- If you’ve worked for less than 12 weeks, take the average of all the weeks you’ve worked up until that point.
- Oh, and don’t forget to include overtime, bonuses and commission!
Payment in lieu of notice
If your employer asks you to leave immediately, without serving your notice period, they should pay you money equivalent to the salary or wages the employee would have earned during that time. That’s payment in lieu of notice (PILON).
Why might this happen? Well, it lets you part ways and end your relationship swiftly without having to work . It could be because of dismissal, redundancy, or another reason.
What if you've got unused holiday allowance?
It works the same as getting paid above. You continue to earn holiday entitlement right up to the day your contract ends, and if you've got untaken annual leave when you depart, then you're entitled to be paid for it too.
Gov.uk have a good guide that covers holiday pay when you're leaving employment - you can find it here.
Why is the statutory minimum required?
The statutory minimum notice period is there to protect both you and your employer. Without it, someone's going to get the raw end of the deal.
Imagine if your employer could let you go without giving any notice. Imagine you'd worked there a few years and your manager pings you a message and tells you it's over 😱. It's not right – you wouldn’t have time to adjust, look for a new role, or plan your next move. You'll have financial commitments, mortgage payments, people that rely on you.
Well, it works both ways. The legal minimum statutory notice is there to give you time to get your ducks in order, (same for your employer). They'll have projects, deadlines, customers to keep happy. They'll need to recruit or arrange someone to cover your work.
This can be seriously expensive (especially if they’re a small business) so giving enough notice to not cause trouble is crucial.
Everyone needs time to plan ahead. Everyone needs a fair amount of notice.
Can you leave your job before your notice period is up?
When an employer dismisses an employee, they can tell the worker to work their notice period as long as they're still being paid.
If you've handed in your resignation and you’re desperate to leave a position before the end of your full notice period, you can always speak to your employer and explain your situation to them. You might want to leave early because you have a new position to take up, or because you find staying in your current role too stressful or awkward.
Your employer doesn't have to grant your request to leave early, but if they do, they don't have to pay you during your notice period either, and some employers will waive the notice period for this reason. Others might simply understand your predicament and waive it as a favour - it's always worth asking.
If your employer won't allow you to leave a position early and it's having a serious impact on your mental health or wellbeing, you could always take some time off sick during your notice period. This could mean only being paid SSP if you're into your contractual notice period, but it's often better to take a brief pay cut than to struggle through a situation which is making you ill. Be aware, though, that you can still be dismissed while on sick leave if you're involved in disciplinary proceedings.
If your situation is a bit more complicated, you can always seek legal advice. Talk to a professional to make sure you’re abiding by employment law and not missing anything important in your contract of employment.
There's nothing worse than not knowing how much holiday allowance you've got left, or turning up to work to find that so many of your team are off that you're short staffed. That's why we make simple absence management software, to give you an easy way to book time off work, visibility of who's off and when, and it keeps track of everything without a messy spreadsheet. What's not to love about that!
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