Resigning from employment

Resigning from a job can be a stressful time for employees - so it's important that several issues are considered before handing in a letter of resignation. Read this guide for more information.

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How much notice should be given by an employee?

Employees should check the terms of their employment contract which deal with resignation. Unless the contract specifies otherwise, employees who have been in a job for at least one month should provide at least one week's notice. This notice period runs from the start of the next day following the submission of notice. Failure to provide the requisite notice can potentially result in court action being taken by the employer (although this is rare).

How should an employee resign?

Unless the employment contract specifies that notice be given in writing, it is possible to resign verbally. However, it is advisable to provide written notice so that there is a clear record. An email may be preferable to a letter, as both parties have access to this as evidence. If sending a resignation letter by post, bear in mind that there may be a delay. Ideally you should use recorded delivery service to confirm receipt.

Notice should be given to the HR manager, line manager or a company director, unless the employment contract states otherwise.

If an employee resigns during a dispute and later changes their mind, they should inform their employer as soon as possible. However it is then up to the employer as to whether to accept the resignation or not.

How does payment work over the notice period?

Employees are entitled to receive normal rates of pay during their notice period, including annual leave. Rates of pay for sickness, and maternity, paternity and adoption leave also stay the same.

Many employers decide to offer departing employees 'payment in lieu' of notice. This means that the employee receives a one-off payment (normally in line with the notice period) and leaves their employment immediately, without working their notice period. Unless payment in lieu is a term of the employment contract, an employee does not have to accept this and can instead choose to work out their notice. For further information read Payments in lieu of notice.

What kind of terms can an employer impose in connection with resignation?

In some circumstances employers will ask their employees to spend their notice at home instead of coming into the office. This is known as gardening leave. During gardening leave, they may or may not require the employee to actually carry out work. If not it can be very similar to pay in lieu of notice, although it will normally carry various restrictions (eg the employee will generally not be allowed to work for another employer during this time). For further information read Gardening leave.

Employment contracts for more senior employees will sometimes contain restrictive covenants which continue to apply once employment has come to an end. Examples include not being allowed to approach customers or work with competitors for a certain period of time. However, restrictive covenants (also known as post-employment restrictions) are not always enforceable. For further information read Post-employment restrictions.

What if an employee resigns because of what their employer has done?

If an employee resigns due to a serious breach of contract (eg bullying or stress at work which is not addressed, failure to make reasonable adjustments for a disability, being asked to ignore health and safety issues etc) they may be able to claim constructive dismissal. For more information read Constructive dismissal.

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