Notice you must give your employer
If you have worked for your employer for one month or more, the legal minimum amount of notice you must give is one week.
Normally your employment contract will set out a longer notice period. If it does, you should give this length of notice to your employer.
If your employment contract does not set out a notice period you should give a reasonable period of notice to your employer. This is included in your employment contract as what is known as an 'implied term'. What is 'reasonable' will depend on your seniority and how long you have worked there.
If you are an 'employee', there are statutory notice periods that are also treated as a part of the contract.
If you don't give proper notice, you will be in breach of contract and it is possible for your employer to sue you for damages. An example of this would be if they had to pay extra to get a temp to cover your work. If you want to give less than proper notice, try and come to some agreement with your employer and if possible get this put in writing.
Notice your employer must give you
Whatever your contract says, your employer must give you at least the statutory minimum period of notice, which depends on how long you've worked for them:
- one week if you've been continuously employed for between one month and two years
- one week for each complete year (up to a maximum of 12) if you've been continuously employed for two or more years
Fixed-term contracts automatically end without notice at their end date. If the employer wants them to end sooner then notice should be given to the employee.
These rights also apply to apprentices, who are normally on fixed-term contracts. If you stay with your employer after finishing your apprenticeship, your time as an apprentice will count when working out your statutory notice period.
You may be given notice by your employer and told to stay away from work during your notice period. This is called 'garden leave' and is often used to stop employees working for competitors for a period of time.
It's helpful to your employer because an employee in that situation is still covered by any contractual duties, like the duty of confidentiality for example, until the end of the notice period. They can also be brought back to work if needed.
You are entitled to your normal pay and any company benefits during garden leave.
Agree a shorter notice period
You can choose to agree a shorter notice period if you wish. Your employment will finish at the agreed time and you will only be paid for the agreed period.
Payment in lieu of notice
Payment in lieu of notice - or PILON - is money paid to you as an alternative to being given your full notice. It can either be set out in the contract as an option for your employer or it may simply be paid to cover any potential damages for breach of contract.
If it’s in your contract, the amount you get will normally be set out. If not, it’s up to you to agree an amount. You may be willing to accept a small amount if it’s in your interests to leave early.
The amount you get will normally cover everything that you would have earned during your notice period, including your basic pay and other things like commission and compensation for the loss of benefits, personal use of a company car, phone, or medical insurance.
Your employer might instead decide to give you the use of your benefits for the notice period.
If you don't think the amount your employer is offering covers what you would have earned, you can still consider making a breach of contract claim.
Summary dismissal or constructive dismissal
Your employer has the right to dismiss you without notice, which is known as 'summary dismissal' if you've committed gross misconduct. Similarly, you have the right to resign, with or without notice, when your employer is in serious breach of contract, which is known as 'constructive dismissal'. If you think your employer had no grounds for summary dismissal, you can bring an Industrial Tribunal claim for breach of contract. You can also consider a claim for unfair dismissal.
Where the right to minimum notice doesn't apply
In some cases you may not be entitled to a minimum notice period before your employer dismisses you, for example if you are:
- not an employee, for example an independent contractor or freelance agent
- a seaman on a ship registered in the United Kingdom and you are part of a crew that follows the terms approved by the Secretary of State for Transport
- a civil servant
- a member of the armed forces
Failure to give proper notice
The duty to give notice is a part of your contract. If either you or your employer doesn't give the right notice then this will be a breach of contract. This can occur:
- if the contract requires notice to be given in writing but it was only given verbally
- if not enough notice (or none at all) is given
If you haven't been given proper notice, you should ask for PILON. Put your request in writing.
Where you can get help
The Labour Relations Agency offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.
Citizens Advice Northern Ireland can provide free and impartial advice.
If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, advice and support from them.