Leaving your job can be a daunting experience and when you come to hand in your resignation letter to your employer, you will be expected to fulfil a notice period. There is often ambiguity surrounding notice periods including whether or not you are required to work your notice period.

What is a notice period?

A notice period is the length of time that you are expected to give your employer before resigning. Employers also need to give notice to employees before the termination of a contract, so it works both ways.

For employees resigning, there isn’t a set notice period that all workers should follow. The length depends on how long the employee has been in their job and what the contract says. The minimum notice period required by law is one week, if you have been employed for one month or more. However, it is likely that employers will want more notice and the specific details of this should be found in the terms of your employment contract.

During the notice period, you are entitled to the same pay and contractual benefits.

Do you have to work your notice period?

As an employee, you can try to agree on a shorter notice period with your employer. Despite this, the employer is under no obligation to allow for a shorter notice, so if an agreement isn’t reached the employee has to work the notice period.

Employees can refuse to work the notice period that is required by the employment contract, but by doing so they will potentially be breaching their contract. If the contract is breached, the employer can then take action against the employee, especially if a financial loss is encountered because of the early departure.

Gardening leave

Depending on the industry and your role in the company, you may be asked to take gardening leave. During gardening leave, you will continue to be paid but cannot attend your workplace. This protects the employer from losing sensitive information about the company. Although the worker cannot go into the workplace, the employee must remain on standby should the employer require their services.

As the employee is still under contract during their gardening period, they cannot start work at a new job. The employer cannot force you to go on garden leave if there’s no mention of it in your contract.

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