You Decide to Leave: Giving Notice
An employee’s contract should say how much notice they must give to their employer.
If it does not, and an employee has worked for their employer for less than a month, legally they do not have to give notice.
An employer is obliged to give at least the statutory minimum notice period, which depends on length of service. If the notice period in the contract is different from the statutory minimum notice period, then the employee will be entitled to receive whichever period of notice is the longer.
If an employee has worked for their employer for at least 1 month, they should give at least 1 week’s notice unless they are entitled to resign without notice.
When the notice period starts
It’s a good idea to check your employment contract as it might say when the notice period starts.
If the employment contract does not say when the notice period starts, your notice period starts when:
- You tell your employer in person that you’re resigning
- Your employer tells you in person that you’re being dismissed or made redundant
- Giving notice face-to-face takes effect immediately (unless a letter confirming the notice in writing needs to be provided if the contract requires it – in which case notice starts to run from the date of the letter)
If your employer gives you notice in writing, your notice period would start when you’ve had a reasonable amount of time to read it.
When an employee is not required to work their notice
Instead of working your notice period, an employee may:
- Ask to leave during their notice period and this is agreed by the employer
- Be offered payment in lieu of notice (PILON)
- Be offered garden leave
Leaving before the notice period ends
The employee can ask if they can leave before their notice period ends.
They should get agreement from their employer in writing. If the employee does not get agreement to leave early they could be in breach of contract.
If the employee leaves early, the employer only has to pay them for the time that they’ve worked.
Payment In Lieu of Notice (PILON)
A clause in an employee’s contract might allow payment instead of working their notice. This is called ‘payment in lieu of notice’ or ‘PILON’. This means they would stop working straight away.
Depending on the wording of the clause, the employer might be able to insist on payment in lieu of notice. The employer cannot force an employee to agree to payment in lieu of notice if it’s not in their contract.
The employer must give the employee full pay for their notice period. The contract will end straight away, so it’s unlikely they’ll have to provide other contractual benefits. Check your contract for more information.
Garden leave (or gardening leave) is when an employer tells an employee not to work either part or all of their notice period and to remain at home. The employer cannot force an employee to take garden leave unless it is in the contract of employment.
This could be because the employer does not want the employee to have access to sensitive or confidential information they could use in a new job.
The employee must get paid as usual during their notice period, including for any work benefits in their contract.
The employee is still employed during garden leave, even though they’re not working.
Take a look at the article ‘Checking Your Employment Rights’ and ‘Paperwork: Contract of Employment for a PA’ for more information.