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Andrew Arkley|July 23, 2020

Notice Period: What Is A Notice Period & Is It Legally Binding?

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If you’re thinking of leaving your job, you might have a few questions about what a notice period is, how it works, whether a notice period is legally binding and if it is statutory?

Notice periods are a subject that can often cause a bit of confusion.

That’s where we come in. We have developed a helpful round-up of the most commonly asked questions around the anxiety-inducing subject of giving and receiving notice.

What is a notice period?

Whatever your reason for leaving, you need to make sure you honour the notice period as notice periods can be legally binding.

Your notice period is the amount of time you must notify your employer before leaving your current job.

Equally, your employer should give you the same amount of notice if they wish to terminate your contract.

Most people will have been made aware of the length of their notice period when they started their job. If you are unsure, take a look at your contract or speak to your HR department.

How long is a notice period?

Your notice period can differ from job to job. It will largely depend on your employer and the terms of your contract.

There are, however, statutory minimum notice periods in place as protection for employees:

  • If you have worked for your employer between 1 month and 2 years, you are entitled to receive 1 week’s notice.
  • If you have worked there between 2 and twelve years, you are entitled to 1 week’s notice for every year worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.

So, if you had worked in your company for five years, assuming there are no other stipulations in your contract, you would be entitled to 5 weeks’ notice. We need to point out here that there can be exceptions to this, like in the case of gross misconduct.

If you have been in your job for less than a month, you don’t need to give notice unless your contract says otherwise.

Is a notice period legally binding?

But hang on, do you have to work your notice period? Is your notice period legally binding? What happens if you don’t want to work your notice? In that case, you can try to negotiate an agreement with your employer.

While your employer can’t actually force you to work, you might find yourself facing legal action for breach of contract if you refuse to work your notice.

So the short answer is yes: notice periods can be legally binding. However, don’t worry too much. These kinds of claims are very rare, and are only likely to be worth bringing against very senior, more expensive executives. This means that you won’t always have to work your notice, depending on the circumstances.

That said, even if you don’t have to work your notice,  it’s generally not  a good idea to burn your bridges. You don’t know when you might need this connection in the future – such as when you require a reference for a future job.

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What is garden leave and payment in lieu of notice?

The majority of employees will work their notice period as normal, but you don’t always have to work your notice. Employers have some other options which could make your notice look a little different (if you have a relevant clause in your employment contract.)

If an employer puts you on garden leave when you hand in your notice, you will continue to receive pay and any benefits. However, you won’t come to work or perform your normal duties.

Employers tend to use garden leave for senior employees leaving the company. It could stop you from poaching key clients, or accessing important data. Since you’re still under your contract, you also can’t work for competitors.

On the other hand, payment in lieu of notice means you’re free to leave before your usual notice is up. Your employer will pay you the money you would have earned working your notice instead.

If there’s been a dispute at work that led to you handing in your notice, your employer could use payment in lieu of notice. Paying your notice means they’re free from the statutory notice period – and you can leave the company quickly.

What happens if you call in sick during your notice period?

If you call in sick during your notice period you are entitled to a normal full pay rate during your notice period. This includes when you’re off sick, taking holiday, or on parental leave. It also applies when you’re available to work but your employer has nothing for you to do.

What is a notice period on a job application?

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Potential employers will want to know what your notice period is so that they can make plans.

Don’t let your notice period be a source of anxiety – if they want you for the job then a notice period won’t put them off. Most applicants will be in the same boat.

What you should do though, is make sure that you check your contract carefully. Double-check that you are giving potential employers accurate information. It would be a bit embarrassing to accept a job offer and then have to go back – red-faced – to explain that you got your notice period wrong!

How do I hand in my notice?

So, you’ve completed a killer application form, wowed at the interview and been offered the job. What to do now? Well, once you have got your job offer from your new employer in writing, you will need to break the news to your current employer.

Although not a legal requirement, it is best practice to do this in writing. Your notice period usually starts the day after you hand in your letter of resignation. You will then be able to agree a start date with your new employer and you’re good to go!

Conclusion – Notice periods UK

Handing your notice in shouldn’t be a scary thing to do. People don’t tend to stay in the same job for life anymore. Employers rarely take it personally. By following our advice and keeping it professional you won’t go far wrong.

If you’re looking for your next job, you’ll need a great CV to make sure you get to the interview stage. If you need help, a professional CV writer from PurpleCV can write you a bespoke CV.

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