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Can one give their employer a longer notice period when resigning than in the contract? Will it be valid?

Is the understanding correct that notice periods in contracts only define a minimum?

Jurisdiction: England & Wales, also interested in other common law jurisdictions

  • How would that work though, if they want shorter notice? Sounds like it's best to delay giving notice, but that feels dishonest. – ᆼᆺᆼ Sep 19 at 0:54
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    It sounds like you're overthinking it. If the company specifically has a short notice period, then they didn't arrive at that by accident, they made a conscious decision to have that notice period. You shouldn't feel dishonest or guilty for abiding by a policy that was implemented by the company outside of your control. If they want people to give them more notice then the power is in their hands to make that happen. – delinear Sep 19 at 8:44
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You can give notice that is shorter or longer than required by your contract or by law.

If you give notice that is shorter then your employer doesn't have to accept your notice, so you will stay employed (obviously you can immediately give notice again with the correct length). On the other hand, they can accept your notice. Or they can tell you that they won't accept the notice you gave, but a different notice (say your contractual notice period is 3 months, you give one week notice, they can say "we don't accept one week notice, but we will accept one month").

If you give notice that is longer then your employer must accept your notice, but they are also entitled to lay you off with the correct notice period. So if your contract says "3 months", and you give six months notice, you may be out of a job in 3 months time.

Given a longer notice will never benefit you. You might change your mind, and then there is no way back. It is best for you to decide when you want to leave, and give the correct notice.

  • Upvoted for the last paragraph. Resist the urge to make this more complicated than it has to be. All the cards are in your hand - you know what the notice period is, you know that you're intending to leave, you know when your new employer wants you to start. Make a decision to notify your current employer based on those factors. – dwizum Sep 19 at 12:51
  • Thanks. Re: they are also entitled to lay you off with the correct notice period, can someone be laid off after they have already resigned (with the correct+ notice)? – ᆼᆺᆼ Sep 19 at 18:04
  • Of course. Otherwise if you think your job isn’t save, you would just give two years notice. – gnasher729 Sep 19 at 23:15
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Yes you can give a longer notice period than in the contract, you can even give a shorter one. When you're leaving you can negotiate with the employer - just be prepared that they may not let you do so. It will be subject to any work outstanding, or what level of hand-over is needed, or whether you and the business both agree it's best to end the contract at a different time.

Example: A settlement agreement generally means the contract ends as soon as that agreement is signed, there isn't a notice period.

You must give at least a week’s notice if you’ve been in your job for more than a month.

https://www.gov.uk/handing-in-your-notice/giving-notice

  • Yes 1 week is the legal minimum, but if the contract specifies longer notice, I don't think giving a less than specified is possible. Re: "they may not let you do so", how is that possible once notice was given? – ᆼᆺᆼ Sep 19 at 1:10
  • It is if you talk with the business, you can discuss it with your manager and HR. As I mentioned in the post they don't have to accept it - and you may be required to work the notice they state, but it can be negotiated. I know this from experience of negotiating it on other peoples behalf. You could always just work the minimum level and leave, but that will follow you around and no doubt appear on references in some way. – MattR Sep 19 at 1:20
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    You could always just work the minimum level and leave, that will follow you around you seem to be implying that by working the minimum, your employer will be upset. That isn't a given. Many employers strongly prefer short notice periods, at least for certain roles - they'd rather move on with a new person than have a (potentially toxic or uncommitted) soon to be ex-employee hanging around. – dwizum Sep 19 at 12:54
  • that will follow you around and no doubt appear on references Mainly I'm asking how it is in England & Wales, references are rare/non-existent (beyond confirming the person worked there, and potentially their salary), due to the very high legal risk associated with giving a reference. But anyway I'm asking about giving more notice than required (so deadlines are still met, for example) – ᆼᆺᆼ Sep 19 at 18:21
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Can one give their employer a longer notice period when resigning than in the contract?

Yes. But unless you're comfortable with your management / company, don't do it. In a lot of (software development) roles, dependent on the domain, having given notice makes you a risk and your employment will be immediately terminated. (They'll give you payment in lieu of contractual notice period).

Will it be valid?

Yes, but see above.

Is the understanding correct that notice periods in contracts only define a minimum?

Yes, although some are more explicit, e.g. "at least n weeks notice", in which case you're probably safe from immediate dismissal.

  • I would add that, even if they don't immediately terminate, they're still obviously going to have to replace you, and if they believe they're able to replace you within the extended notice period you gave them, there's no reason to keep two people on the payroll for the same role, so they may just enforce the minimum notice period instead. Say your notice period is a month, and being nice you decide to give them three months, if they enforce the one month, you will be out of work two months earlier than you expected. You need to be ready for that possibility if you go down that route. – delinear Sep 19 at 8:55
  • @delinear Agree absolutely, although a good reason to keep two people for the relatively short period is knowledge transfer / training. – Justin Sep 19 at 9:37
  • @delinear I'm not sure it works like that. I'm not an expert, but I'd think you can't force an employee to quit. They would have to terminate you to make you leave earlier than you would choose. – Omegastick Sep 19 at 9:51
  • @Omegastick good point, I should probably clarify that it depends how long you have been with the company. You can only go to tribunal in England and Wales if you have been permanently employed for a minimum of 2 years, otherwise the company can effectively give notice and dismiss you, and you have very little legal recourse (this differs if something like discrimination comes into play). – delinear Sep 19 at 10:16
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    A notice period (by contract or by law) is what employee and employer are entitled to. If both sides agree, you can quit earlier. If you have three months notice but you and your employer agree that two weeks would be better, then you can give two weeks notice and the employer can accept that notice. – gnasher729 Sep 19 at 23:21

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