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3 Month Notice Period UK – Is It Legal & More

The 3 month notice period

UK employment contracts can include any reasonable clause, so long as both parties (employer and employee) agrees to it. That means, if you’ve signed a contract that requires 3 months notice before you can leave, then it’s your responsibility to adhere to that. If your employer agrees to a new notice period, then this replaces the previous agreed notice period, but it’s at the employer’s discretion. If you have signed a contract with a three month notice period, here’s what you need to know:

  • It is your legal obligation to honour the three month period you’ve agreed to.
  • Your employer can enforce your contract by law if you give less than three month’s notice.
  • You can leave earlier if your employer consents to this. If they don’t, and you don’t work your notice, then you’re in breach of contract.
  • You should try to remain on good terms throughout the three months notice you work.
  • All of your normal pay and benefits must continue during your notice.
  • The three months notice begins the day after you’ve let your employer know you’re leaving.

Starting a new job should be an exciting time for you, but don’t get swept up in the excitement and forget your obligation’s to your old employer. Always pay attention to the employment contract when starting any new role, and ensure you’re happy with it before you sign it.

Whether you’re working a three months notice because of the contract you’ve signed or due to the statutory notice period (if you’ve worked at a company for 12 years or more, three months is standard practice), it’s important to know what’s next for you.

What Do I Need To Know?

When you provide notice to your employer of your intention to leave the business it can be a stressful time, but to make things easier, we’ll provide answers to the following questions today:

  • 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?

Yes. There are a range of notice periods in all different kinds of employment contracts across the UK; and it doesn’t matter if it’s one week’s notice, one month’s notice, or three month’s notice – if you’ve signed it, you have to do it.

There are exceptions, however. Your employer may feel it’s in both of your best interests to reduce the three months notice to a shorter option than what is stated in the employee’s contract. This is up to them, though, and if they decide you have to work the three months you promised at the start of your employment, then there’s little else you can do.

You should also check where your contract stands on annual leave during a notice period. If you have some leftover, you might be allowed to take it during this time so you don’t have to work the full three months, but the likelihood is you still wouldn’t be able to begin new employment during this time.

Check your contract for garden leave, too.

What is gardening leave?Gardening or garden leave prevents the most senior members of staff from working at a competitor’s company for so long following the end of your employment. This could mean it’ll be even longer before you can legally start your new job, so be sure to check this and be open with your new employers about how long it might be before you join their team.

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

If you have a contract of employment, then there will usually be a clause relating to notice periods and how long yours is. This is the minimum requirement. So, a three month notice period means you have to work for three more months before you can take up new employment.

If notice periods aren’t covered in your contract, then the statutory notice periods are related to the length of your service for the company and are as follows:

  • 1 month – 2 years: 1 week’s notice
  • 2 – 12 years: 1 week’s notice for every full year worked
  • 12 years+: 3 month’s notice

 

Always give your notice in writing and ensure the date of notice is clear should later issues arise.

when does my 3 month notice start

Can My Employer Legally Make Me Work My Full Notice Period?

Whilst there is no law in the UK that exists that can physically force you into the workplace to complete your period of notice, the employment contract itself is legally binding. It is your legal requirement to complete your three month notice period.

When an employee fails to do so, the employer can take that employee to court to try and have one of two things resolved.

The first, is that the judge may impress upon the employee the seriousness of their breach of contract and ask that they return to complete their notice. If the employee refuses or has already started their new job, then the second option will be sought.

The second option is that the judge will assess the damages caused by the employee to the employer and issue a fine that awards the cost of those damages to the the employer.

If you hold a senior position, then it’s much more likely that your employers will commence legal action as they’ll likely lose business as a result of your leaving your position early. When employers are dealing with employees in less senior roles, the cost of a court battle is usually higher than the damages that would be awarded, so often no legal action will be taken.

You shouldn’t, however, rely on your employer not seeking legal action regardless of your position, as they are well within their right to do so if you fail to work the period of notice you originally agreed to.

Staying On Good Terms Is Important

If you’re leaving your position at a business, it’s almost always a good idea to remain on good terms with your employer – and them with you.

As such, both parties should be reasonable during this time to prevent the situation becoming sour. You might have dealings with each other in the future as your paths cross once more. So you should do your best to work your full notice, and they should do their best to make you comfortable during this time.

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

If you’ve tried to make it work but you just feel working your full notice isn’t right for you (there may be extraneous circumstances here making you feel this way, such as a toxic work environment or other HR issues), then you should first speak to your employer.

Start by discussing why it is you feel you can’t complete the full three month notice period. Be calm and professional as you make your request, and follow them up in writing. If they agree that remaining for the full three months isn’t practical for you or in the best interest of the employer, then they may agree to shortening your notice.

Be realistic with your expectation here. You won’t find your three month notice period suddenly changing to a two weeks notice. Support your employer as best you can with finding and training your replacement to an appropriate level, though, and you may find you’ll be released from your notice agreement much sooner.

Do I Receive Full Pay During My Notice Period?

Absolutely, just as you are bound by your contract of employment, if you continue working during this period, so too is your employer, meaning you are entitled to all of the same benefits as you were before handing in your notice. This includes full pay, plus benefits like private health insurance, holiday or maternity pay, sick pay, and pension payments.

Occasionally, if your employer decides to do so, you may be paid in lieu of notice (PILON). Here, your employment comes to an end immediately, but you’re paid for the full three month notice period without having to work it. If this is an option at your place of work, there should be a clause in the contract again – check this to see where you stand with any benefits that you may have been entitled to had you continued working for the entire notice as you may actually miss out on some of your other benefits.

When Does The Notice Period Start?

Check your contract again, but it’s common practice for your notice period to start one day after you’ve handed in your notice to your employer. Handing in a three month notice on Monday 15th April, for example, would mean your notice period begins on Tuesday 16th April, and your final day of employment would be on Tuesday 9th July (12 weeks later).

Can I Take A Holiday During My Notice Period?

So long as your employer agrees to it, you can use any outstanding annual leave during your notice period. Unless there is a valid business reason for refusing annual leave, then your employer can’t refuse your request just because you’re working your notice.

In cases where there is a clause in your employment contract that states no annual leave can be taken during a notice period, or where your requests to take your remaining annual leave are refused, then the employer must pay you your full annual leave entitlement with your last pay package.

Related Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Still Get A Reference If I Leave Early?

It’s a common misconception in the UK that an employer has to provide a reference. They don’t, unless it’s in the contract that they will. Most will do so willingly if you’ve been a wonderful employee, of course.

Failure to complete your notice period could cost you. Your employer may be less willing to provide a reference for you if you’ve left them in a difficult position by breaching your contract and jumping ship early.

If a positive reference is important to your future job prospects, then we’d certainly recommend remaining at your job until your notice period is complete. This is not only good practice with your current employer, but it shows your future employer that you’re an employee with integrity who is willing to stick to their employment contract terms, even when it doesn’t suit you.

However, if you’ve already lined up your new employment and they’re happy for you to breach your contract with the old employer, then you may choose to do so. It isn’t recommended, but it may work for you in your current circumstances, especially if your new job is in a new industry with zero chance of you having to deal with your old employers again.

Should I Tell Interviewers About My Three Month Notice Period?

Honesty is key in business, and making a good first impression counts. Always tell your potential future employer upfront that you have a three month notice period clause in your contract that you intend to honour. This means you can keep your word with your old employer, and keep your new employer in the loop from the start.

Most companies will be more than happy to wait for you to be available if you’re the right fit for them.

Summary

Three months notice is much more common in the UK now than most people realise – especially for senior roles, those who have been in a role for 12+ years, and individuals working in industries with specialised or niche skills.

It’s always better to work your full notice period and keep your employer on side during this time. You never know when your paths may cross again.

Key Take Home Points

  • 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 unless it’s in the contract that they will.

 

For Your Next Role

Before signing any contract, look for the notice period specified. If you’re unhappy, ask for it to be shortened, or at least for a clause to be put in place that allows for the shortening of the notice period at that time, should both parties agree.

Never sign a contract you aren’t completely happy with – especially if you fear being legally obligated to remain at a job for longer than you’re comfortable with all because of a notice period you fear is too long given the nature of your employment.

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