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Are your employees not working their notice periods?

For some employees, the moment they hand in their resignation is the moment they shut down.

Employees not working notice periods can be a real headache. If the departing employee is one you didn’t want to lose due to their skills and experience, then you’re no doubt still feeling frustrated. But now they won’t even work their notice period, and your disappointment that they’re leaving is turning into resentment. Well, how about we discuss not working full notice periods rather than mourn what could’ve been. Let’s be clear straight away. As long as you haven’t breached the contract, you don’t have to pay someone for their notice if they refuse to work it.

Do employees have to work your notice period?

Yes, employees will normally be contractually obligated to work their notice period. But sometimes it’s not that simple. The statutory notice period for an employee who resigns is one week – if, that is, they’ve been working for you for one month or more. This is true of employees who are on their probation period, too. If someone gives you their notice on a Monday, their last day of that ‘one week’ is the next Monday.

Contractual notice, on the other hand, is at the discretion of the employer – as long as the employee signs their contract. For this reason, it’s common for many businesses to write into contracts that employees must give a minimum of one month’s notice when resigning. If employees sign the contract, they must adhere to it.
You might then ask, “Why not just write long notice periods into all employees contracts?” And on the face of it, this idea sounds great. It would give you more time to hire and train new employees to replace the leaver.

But, it’s worth thinking about the leaving employee and what’s best for them. If you try to force them to stay too long now that you know they don’t want to be there, can you be sure that their productivity level will still be high?

If the contracts you offer have long notice periods, you might actually deter new talent from wanting to join you. When someone decides to leave they don’t want to have to serve a three-month notice period. Our advice is to be smart with notice lengths. Set each one according to the level of seniority of the role someone is in. Once an employee hands in their notice, they normally want to leave as soon as they can. If you keep this in mind and negotiate with them, they will realise you’re trying to create a situation that’s best for both parties. Compromising is a sign of a strong leader, after all.

When employees sign their contracts, they have a legal requirement to fulfill their notice. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. You could take them to court for damages that your business will suffer because of them not working their notice period.

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