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I recently decided to leave a position after 4 months, as it simply wasn't working out. I had a two month notice period in my contract and had found a new position already that I am eager to start. I thought that a two month notice for four months of work seems unnecessary, as I don't have a lot to handover. As such, when I handed my notice in, I had a discussion with my manager about reducing my notice period to a month. This was well received initially, on the condition that I don't treat this as a notice period and look to complete certain tasks.

Since that conversation, additional tasks have been added to my Trello board and the manager has demanded for these to be finished before I leave. They have taken the position that my leaving is conditional on finishing the tasks, and refuse to give me a leaving date in writing until we are at that point. This means that I can't provide a concrete start date to my new employer, and when I do finish the tasks, I will simply have the rug pulled out from under me and be told that I can leave when in reality I need to give my new employer at least a weeks notice that I will be starting on X date.

I have no confidence that more tasks won't be added before the provisional one month leaving date that I gave even if I do complete the current set, and whilst they were doing me a favour, it really feels unprofessional to not give a concrete date or have my leaving be conditional. I have had discussions requesting this, however my manager is the managing director of the company and HR in this company is essentially run by command, and won't look to uphold any accountability to me on my manager's part (which by law I suppose he doesn't have). I'm not sure how to handle the situation, as I want to be professional and complete all the work set, but also I need to be able to give my new employer a start date.

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    Hi - can you confirm your location please? Also, how long is your probationary period? – AdzzzUK Sep 11 at 10:33
  • Location would certainly be helpful to answer. I´d look into taking two or three sick days and then see if a reasonable discussion can be had. – Daniel Sep 11 at 11:11
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    Probationary period feels very relevant here — normally if you were on probation, you would have a much shorter notice period (e.g. ~1week) – anotherdave Sep 11 at 11:34
  • Location is in the UK - my probationary period was actually 6 months which I am probably still within, but legally I'm not sure whether that affects my notice period if they specify something other than legal minimum notice. – ThorntonStuart Sep 11 at 13:31
  • @ThorntonStuart, if your employer is devious and deceitful, there could be an argument for just playing hardball, and leave after the month's notice verbally agreed, and tell him to go and swivel from that point. A two-month notice period on the employee's side is rather long, especially after working only four months. – Steve Sep 12 at 12:04
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So basically, you understood the agreement to be an "official" shortening of the notice period, while the manager understood it (or at least is treating it) as if you'll keep working for them until whatever time is convenient for them between now and the end of the contractual notice period, at which point they'll make it official.

Since you didn't get the agreement in writing, you cannot legally force them to accept your interpretation and if you quit earlier you'll be in breach of contract.

You have basically three options:

  • do what they want, and it looks like that means working until the end of the contractual notice period.
  • quit after one month and take the risk of getting sued for breach of contract, which realistically is not big because they have very little to gain, especially if you have any kind of emails that document the existence of the agreement and your efforts to adher it it in terms of wrapping up your tasks cleanly, no matter how tenuous (if you do, copy them now to a safe place). They can't force you to work for them, you don't expect to be paid anyway, and damages are nearly impossible to prove. But if the manager is vindictive, he may not care and sue anyway.
  • negotiate hard to get the shortened period in writing, telling them you are assuming the agreement as binding (having emails to support that view would help here as well) and make it clear (but don't threaten) that you're not afraid to breach the contract if they won't cooperate.
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  • Doesn't sound like there was an agreement the OP can point to, just an amorphous "well we'll see when you finish your tasks..." – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Sep 11 at 23:07

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