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I started a new job a couple of months ago with a small organisation (<20 employees) in a "junior" role (my first full time job after a PhD). I am still technically within a 6 month probationary period and live and work in the UK.

The HR manager approached me recently. Apparently for juniors they usually specify a notice period of one month in the employment contract (time that they have to give me or I have to give them before leaving); however in my contract they apparently made a mistake and the wording said three months. I was told that this is usually reserved for management and more senior employees.

The manager made it clear that they wanted me to change to a one month period. They initially approached it as "we made a mistake so I will give you a new contract to sign", expecting me to just go along with it. However upon my response (namely that "I would like to think about it") they changed their tune and made out like sticking on the three month would be an option. Obviously I am aware that my employment contract is a legal document and I didn't want to just downgrade the terms of employment that I agreed to without some further thought.

Obviously three months is much better for me as it would give me more pay and time to look for a job if they want to let me go (although by all accounts things seem to be going well so I am not worried about this). However I am worried about how this would be perceived and if it would be unreasonable for me to stick to this? It seems like it was a genuine mistake on their part and part of me feels bad for taking advantage of this.

Am I within my rights to stick to the three month notice contract and should I do it, or should I sign the new contract? If I stick to the current contract will this impact me negatively in the workplace? Will I be judged?

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    Note that a notice period of 3 months might make it harder to find another job (as opposed to 1 month), since potential employers might not be willing to wait that long (and giving notice without having something else in place is generally a terrible idea). AFAIK many skilled workers prefer / would prefer a notice period of 1 month (if not less). – Dukeling Jan 19 '18 at 0:22
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    @EngStan - to be clear, the notice period typically works both ways, so you will be required to give three months notice if you ever want to leave – HorusKol Jan 19 '18 at 3:43
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    Unless you're very unlucky, it's more likely that you will decide to leave before being asked to leave. In that case, having a one month notice period is to your advantage. – Mike Harris Jan 19 '18 at 14:13
  • Is it 3 months during the probationary period or does this only come into effect after the probationary period ends – Neuromancer Jan 19 '18 at 16:39
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TL/DR: Think long term: Is putting long-term trust at risk worth flexing muscles in the short term just because you can? I would sign the corrected contract.

Am I within my rights to stick to the three month notice contract?

Yes, since the terms of the contract state so, you are within your rights to stick to the contract.

Should I do it, or should I sign the new contract?

It depends. Personally, if this appears to have been an honest mistake, I would probably go ahead and do it. Of course, the ideal scenario is that they would have to give you 3 month notice, while you would only have to give 1 month notice.

Since the situation is different, this depends on which of these options is more important to you: Do you want to only have to suffer for 4 weeks after announcing your resignation, or do you want the security of extra 2 months of pay after they notify you about letting you go?

In your case it sounds like things are going well and it's not in their immediate interest to let you go. I would rather have a shorter period between my announcement and my leaving, but it's a matter of preference. If you don't care much about that, but prefer more job security, stick to the current terms. If you don't mind a shorter notice period, go with the standard contract for an employee in your role.

If I stick to the current contract will this impact me negatively in the workplace? Will I be judged?

Hard to tell for sure but it might, and you might be. It probably does communicate a certain 'attitude' of yours, whether intentional or not. If you dig your heels in, you are basically using the advantage of a technicality and an honest mistake against them. This might jeopardize the trust between you and the employer.

If you care more about building a positive working relationship and trust, then I would suggest to simply go along and sign the corrected contract. It might build some goodwill and paint you as someone who is a team player rather than a potential thorn in their side. (The thinking is, if you were difficult about something relatively trivial such as this, what other future problems might you create for them?)

My recommendation is to think long term about this one: is putting long-term trust at risk worth flexing muscles in the short term just because you can, as a result of a mistake someone made? Good luck!

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    I need one of those ideal scenario contracts. – BirdLawExpert Jan 19 '18 at 16:26
  • Why would you prefer a shorter notice period I the UK 3 months is standard for professional jobs and the majority of employers will give you pay in lieu. – Neuromancer Oct 13 '18 at 22:21
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You are entirely in your rights to insist on three months notice period, as your contract says. The company may have the right to give you three months notice now, that's the risk. Interestingly, in the last days someone asked about the opposite question - their company wants to increase the notice period from one to two months and that poster wasn't happy with the increase.

If there was indeed a mistake, and nobody in a similar position has more than one month notice period, that might indeed be seen negatively. I would express that you would prefer to stay with the three months (if that is what you want), making it sound like a reasonably strong but not absolute opinion, and the matter might get dropped.

  • And the employer is entirely entitle to "terminate your contract (by giving notice) and offer you a new one including the revised terms - effectively sacking you and taking you back on." And its normal to have very short notice periods during a probationary period. – Neuromancer Jan 19 '18 at 16:38

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