How much notice does an employee need to give?

It can be a sad time for an employer when an employee hands their notice in. Perhaps it’s someone who’s worked for you for a long time, or it could be someone who’s been with you a matter of months and you’ve really seen them develop.

Whoever it is, there might be a number of questions that you have as an employer about a notice period and how it works.

How to handle a notice period

When an employee hands their notice in, you should check their resignation letter and make sure that the notice they’ve given matches the minimum you’ve set out in their contract of employment. If you haven’t mentioned a notice period in their contract, you’ll have to look at the statutory notice period as set out by the government.

Types of notice period

The two types of notice period are statutory and contractual. Statutory notice is the legal minimum requirement that you can give your employee. The employee must provide:

  • At least one week’s notice if they’ve been employed by you for longer than a month up to two years.
  • ● At least two weeks’ notice if they’ve been employed by you continuously for two years. They will need to give an additional one week’s notice for every additional year they’ve worked up to a maximum of 12 weeks. For example, if your employee has been with you for four years, this means their minimum statutory notice period will be four weeks.

In contrast to statutory notice, contractual notice refers to the terms you’ve laid out in the employee’s contract. It cannot be shorter than statutory notice, however it can be longer if you or the employee wishes it. For example, the employee might have worked with you for six months. According to statutory notice, they can give one week’s notice, however you may have set out in their contract that they must give one month’s notice.

When you set the notice period in your employees’ contracts, you should consider how long it may take to find a suitable replacement. Is it a very specific job role that only a few people will be able to do? If this is the case, you may consider an eight-week notice period to ensure that you find a replacement in time.

 

You may also want to take into consideration the time it could take to train the new employee. Do you want your current employee to do this? If this is the case, you’ll need to find a replacement, have them start in their new position and get the original employee to train them up. This process could take a long time so think carefully about the notice period you provide and whether it’s reasonable for both you and the employee.

You cannot make your employee leave before their notice period is up, as this could be classed as unfair dismissal. However, if the employee approaches you about shortening their notice period, you can both come to an agreement that you’re happy with. You may agree certain terms in order to shorten their notice period. These terms could include asking them to complete handovers before they leave, or to complete their current work. You should also take this time to remind them that they won’t be paid for the notice they don’t work.

You should ensure that your employee gives the proper notice. Failure to do so could mean a breach of contract. This can also occur if the employee gives verbal notice but their contract requests it in writing or if they haven’t given enough notice.

Fixed term contracts don’t require notice because a date has been specified for when the contract/employment will end. However, if the employee wishes to leave before the end of the fixed term, statutory notice will need to be allowed.

Common questions about notice periods

Can an employee extend their notice period?

If an employee wishes to stay longer than their notice period, they have the right to do so. You as the employer cannot make them leave earlier as this could be claimed as unfair dismissal. See this ACAS article for more information on unfair dismissal.

Can an employee quit without giving notice?

An employee can quit without giving notice, however, in doing so, they may breach their contract. This means you could potentially sue them for damages. You would need to prove any financial or logistical loss caused by their early departure.This breach of contract could also affect the amount of notice pay/final salary you pay out. Even if they leave with minimal notice, you still need to pay them for the notice that they did work. If a member of staff quits without working their notice period, you can deduct money from their final salary if their contract states that you may do this.As previously mentioned, you could talk to the employee and discuss a decrease in their notice period. You may both be able to come to a compromise and agree on a suitable time frame.

Can an employee quit during a probationary period?

An employee can quit during their probationary period, however their notice period may be considerably shorter. You as the employer must respect the one-week statutory notice in this case, unless you have outlined any terms in their contract around probationary notice.

How to talk an employee out of quitting

If an employee has handed their notice in but you don’t want them to leave, you may be able to sit down with them and try to convince them to stay.

First, you’ll need to talk to the employee and find out their reasons for leaving. It should be an informal chat to find out if there’s anything you could offer them that may persuade them to stay. This could be an increased salary, changing the job role, switching teams or departments, offering opportunities to grow and progress or offering them additional training in something they want to learn more about. If your employee has handed their notice in because of their commuting distance, you could ask them if they’d like to work from home some of the time.

 

 

Whatever is agreed upon should be noted in a document. A copy should be handed to the employee and a copy should be kept in your records. You will also need to follow through on your promises, for example, you shouldn’t offer them training and decline to see this through later on.

If your employee is unhappy at the company because of the people or the job role, and you feel nothing you can offer will change their mind, then it’s probably not worth asking them to stay. You need to be sure that what you can offer them will change their attitude to the job. Otherwise, they’re likely to hand their notice in again in a few months.

It can be hard to lose an employee, but we hope that we’ve outlined all the information you need to know on notice periods and what rights both you and your employees have.

If you need help retaining employees or simply some HR advice for employers our experts have got your back from start to finish.

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