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The 3 month notice period – facts you need to know

The 3 month notice period
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If you have signed an employment contract stipulating a three month notice period, here are the facts that you need to know:

  • You are duty bound to honour the notice period specified in your contract of employment, whether that’s one week, one month or three.
  • If you have signed a legally binding contract, it is enforceable by law.
  • If you wish to leave the organisation you work for without giving full notice, this will put you in breach of contract – unless you have your employer’s consent.
  • It’s in both parties interest to remain on good terms throughout the notice period
  • You are entitled to receive your normal pay and benefits during your notice period, as set out in your contract of employment.
  • Your notice period starts the day after you let your employer know that you are leaving.

If you’re joining a brand new company to start the job of your dreams or to enjoy a fresh start, then thinking about what happens when it’s time to leave is probably the last thing on your mind. While it’s great to have a positive attitude going into your new role it’s important to know what happens when the time comes to hand your notice in, especially when it’s a significant period of time, like three months.

In all the excitement of changing jobs, it can be easy to overlook the finer points of your employment contract. One clause you should always pay attention to however is the notice period that you are agreeing too. It may seem irrelevant now but when the time comes to leave your new role you may regret signing so hastily, especially when the notice period is three months long – that’s a quarter of a year!

Most people will choose to leave a role for positive reasons and leave their team on good terms but when this isn’t the case, three months can feel like a very long time, especially if you already have another new job lined up to go to.

Whether your notice period is a week or three months, there are always guidelines that should be followed and things that you should be aware of. Let’s take a closer look.

What Do I Need To Know?

To help you understand what you and your employer can and can’t do when it comes to navigating a long three month notice period, we have answered some frequently asked questions in this article to ensure that you have all the facts that you need, including;

  • Do you have to work the whole notice period
  • What is the minimum notice that you must give to your employer?
  • Can my employer legally make me work my full notice period
  • What to do if you want to leave earlier than your notice period
  • Do I receive full pay during a notice period
  • When does the notice period actually start?

Do You Have To Work The Whole Notice Period

If you have signed a contract of employment, then you are duty bound to honour the 3 months’ notice period, unless you and your employer can both agree on a different outcome.

Whether or not you have to physically work the whole three months will be determined by your employer and any contract that you signed at the beginning of your employment.

For example, you may have some annual leave entitlement left to take. In this case, it will depend on the terms of your employment whether you can take any of the days as holiday during your notice period or if they will be paid back to you as part of your final wage payment.

If you are in a very senior position and have handed in your notice, then you may be put on gardening leave. This essentially means that you are still required to fulfil the notice period, but won’t be able to continue working for the company or your new company during this time. This route is often used to protect larger companies’ interests when senior employees move to rival competitors.

What Is The Minimum Notice That You Must Give To Your Employer?

When a contract of employment exists, there will usually be a clause that specifies what notice period you must give if you want to end your time with the company. Whatever time period is stated in this section of the contract is usually accompanied with a note that it can be varied by mutual agreement of both parties.

In the case that your contract asks for a three month notice period, then three months is the minimum notice that you should give to your employer when you wish to resign.

When no notice period is communicated, then the statutory minimum period of notice, if you have been employed for one month or more, is 1 week.

It’s always best to give your notice in writing to prevent any dispute about the date the notice was given.

Can My Employer Legally Make Me Work My Full Notice Period

Although you cannot be legally forced to work, if you have signed a legally binding employment contract, the terms within it are enforceable, and this includes the notice period.

This means that if you fail to abide by the terms agreed in your contract then technically you are in breach of the contract and your employer would be within their rights to take the matter to court in order to legally enforce the contract that you signed.

When taking the matter to court, the intended outcome is for the judge to either enforce the contract terms originally set out or for damages to be awarded that recover any losses incurred as result of the breach. As this process can be a long winded, expensive way to get you to work your full notice period, it is highly unlikely that your employer would take this route unless heavy financial losses have been incurred as a result of your early departure. Again, this is unlikely unless you hold a very senior or specialist position that incurs a high fee for recruiting a replacement for the balance of your notice period or results in a loss of business due to you no longer being in post.

Staying On Good Terms Is Important

Although organisations taking legal action against employees to enforce their full notice periods is rare, it is in everybody’s interests for both parties to remain on good terms throughout the notice period.

You never know when you will see your employer again or when their feedback on your time at the company may impact your future roles or the perception others have of you. The world is a very small place so it’s very likely that a negative attitude or unhelpful actions during your notice period will catch up with you one way or another!

What To Do If You Want To Leave Earlier Than Your Notice Period

Leaving your employment earlier than the notice period specified in your contract will put you in breach of contract, unless you and your employer can come to a mutual agreement that allows you to shorten the length of your notice period.

To help keep discussions surrounding shortening your notice period as positive as possible, always keep your requests calm and professional and follow them up in writing. You will find that most employers are usually open to agreeing mutually beneficial terms to shorten long notice periods as long as you continue to work to the best of your ability and support the company in delivering any outstanding work required by you before you leave.

Do I receive Full Pay During My Notice Period

Yes, you are entitled to receive your full, normal pay and any benefits due during your notice period as per your contract of employment. This includes any pension payments, private health insurance, sick pay, holiday or maternity pay that may be due.

You should note that your employer does have the option to pay you in lieu of notice. In this scenario, you are paid for your notice period without having to work it. This is referred to as ‘PILON’. In PILON situations, your employment contract would come to an immediate end which would also end any further employee benefit payments too.

Your contract of employment should usually include a clause regarding PILON indicating any entitlement to be paid for benefits such as car allowance, pension or health insurance when you are paid in lieu of notice.

When Does The Notice Period Start?

If you have decided it’s time to leave your company, it’s natural to want to start counting down the days of your notice period right away but when you’ve told your boss that you’re leaving, when does the notice period actually begin?

Always refer to your contract of employment but usually you can give your notice on any day with it being effective from the following day. For example, if you hand your notice in on a Monday, then your notice period actually starts the day after on Tuesday.

Can I Take a Holiday During My Notice Period

If you have outstanding annual leave allowance remaining, you can take this during your notice period providing your employer agrees. Requests for annual leave, even during a notice period, shouldn’t be refused unless there is a valid business reason or there is a clause in your contract that prevents this from happening.

Related Questions

Will I Still Get A Reference If I Leave Early?

Your current employer is under no obligation to provide a reference for you but most will do so willingly after you have gone your separate ways, especially if you completed your duties well and left on good terms.

The chance that a reference will be refused, or given in not particularly favourable terms will be higher if you have left your employer in the lurch by leaving earlier than the notice period agreed.

This means that you will need to make a judgement call yourself as to whether having a positive reference will put your future employment efforts at risk. If you do think you may find yourself without a reference, or not a particularly good one, you should discuss this with your new employer and be honest about the reasons why during the interview process.

If the reason you are leaving earlier than your notice period states is to meet a start date that a new employer has requested, they are likely to be much more forgiving of a bad reference due to leaving your previous employment early.

Should I Tell Interviewers About My Three Month Notice Period

Honesty is always the best policy, especially when trying to make a good first impression. Therefore, being upfront and honest about the length of your notice period when interviewing for potential new roles will ensure that everyone knows the score and you start your potential employee/employer relationship on the right foot.

If you have the skills required by the role and are a great fit for the company then there is every chance the company you are interviewing for will be happy to wait for you to join them once you have fulfilled your current contractual obligations.

One thing is for certain, potential employers would much rather know the realistic timeframe that you can join them rather than being told something that you can’t deliver on due to having to work out the notice period of your current role for longer than you said.

Summary

The three month notice period is an increasingly common stipulation of employment contracts, particularly for more senior roles or those that require specialist skill sets. Most people move on from their employment on good terms but whether this is the case or not, if you have agreed to a three month notice period, we hope this article has given you a clear overview of how you and your employer should act when you are duty bound to honour the 3 month notice period in your terms of employment.

Remember: 

  • You are required to honour the notice period set in your terms of employment
  • It’s in everyone’s interest to remain on good terms throughout the notice period
  • If you have signed a legally binding contract, it is enforceable
  • If you wish to leave the organisation you work for without giving full notice, this will put you in breach of contract- unless you have your employer’s consent.
  • You are entitled to receive your normal pay during your notice period, as set out in your contract of employment.
  • Your employer doesn’t have to give you a reference

For Your Next Role

The next time you are getting ready to accept a new role, pay particular attention to the notice period specified in the contract. You can always ask for this to be shortened before signing, and if that request isn’t agreed, most employers will accept an additional clause that states the notice period may be shortened by mutual agreement of both parties. This should give you the peace of mind that you need to take on a role you want without being tied down to an overly arduous three month notice period

As with all situations in life, good communication can go a long way. This is especially true when it comes to handling discussions relating to three month notice periods in a calm and professional manner. Taking the time to talk to your employer openly and honestly will ensure you can start your employment or leave your employment with your head held high. Hopefully, taking this approach will ensure that any decisions relating to your notice period are fair and result in a smooth transition for you, your current employer and new employer.

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