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I have made a mistake and utilised an old copy of my contract (it had changed during my working history at my current company) which said a 1 month notice period on it. This is what I have told the new company and is what I put on the forms etc before accepting the new contract.

I have however, upon resigning, found out I got it totally wrong - the second, most recent, and actually current, job contract says a 3 month notice period.

Any suggestions on how I salvage this situation? How likely is it the other company will withdraw the offer at this point? Contracts have been signed but the mistake is mine not theirs.

Apart from coming clean and expressing apologies, is there any specific etiquette you'd follow in this situation?

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    Could you negotiate with your current employer? Can you do a buyout? Is there a project that needs to be finished first? Dec 22, 2020 at 10:04
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    "How likely is it the other company will withdraw the offer at this point?" We have no idea. It depends on how urgently they need a new member of staff, how good they think you are, and whether the HR manager got out on the wrong side of bed this morning. Dec 22, 2020 at 10:25
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    @RuiFRibeiro not illegal i the uk, and it's in ops tags.
    – Aida Paul
    Dec 22, 2020 at 11:57
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    In any negotiation with the current employer, bear in mind that they may be aware that a 3-month notice is often of doubtful enforceability (on both legal and practical grounds), and they too aren't going to want to burn bridges with good leavers.
    – Steve
    Dec 22, 2020 at 12:01
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    @TymoteuszPaul Jeez, thought it was only a thing in India, thanks. Would never ever accept a 3 month notice. Here we have very specific laws governing that, exceptions only maybe for jobs very up the hierarchy chain, think CEOs... Dec 22, 2020 at 12:04

4 Answers 4

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If your currently employer didn't notice this, then you can simply confirm with them that the resignation good. Do this on email so you push back later if they try to change their mind

Hi Boss, just double checking in with you that everything is ok with my resignation? Anything else you need from me?

If your employer does notice this with you promoting them, then you will need to negotiate with them. But there is little benefit in keeping an unmotivated around because a piece of paper says so

However, should you not get the results you seek, you will need to talk with your new Employer and inform then of your start date with them

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Try negotiating a shorter notice period with your current employer. It's tough for even the most professional employee to remain focussed and productive for a 3 month notice and it can be a bit demotivating for a team knowing that one of their colleagues is just going through the motions. I manage a team who have long notice periods like this and have often agreed shorter notice periods based on an agreed handover plan. Draw up a list of everything you think will need to be documented / handed over and estimate how long this will take. If the work fits into a month, your employer might be pleased to shorten your notice.

If that fails, try asking your new employer to delay your start date. I'd imagine they'd agree to this. Recruitment is hard work - they've just completed that by offering you a job and may well not want to restart the whole process. Also, the chances are that hiring you in 3 months may be about as fast as being blocked on new recruitment for 2 weeks for the holidays, interviewing for 2-4 weeks then waiting for someone else to serve their notice.

If all else fails, you could choose to break your contract and leave after 1 month. (I don't advise this but it is an option.) Unless you are very senior, your current employer is unlikely to go to the bother and expense of taking legal action to force you to honour your notice. You will be well and truly burning your bridges with them though. Depending on the size of the industry you work in, the reputational damage could limit your options in future.

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Any suggestions on how I salvage this situation? How likely is it the other company will withdraw the offer at this point? Contracts have been signed but the mistake is mine not theirs.

This situation breaks down to how willing are you to go back on your existing contract in order to secure the new job as in the UK there is no slavery anymore and if you decide to not show up for work and proceed with the other company instead then there is very little the employer can do about it besides firing you and not paying for the time you didn't work.

If you decide on this option, make sure to explain that to your manager/boss so you are not just suddenly AWOL and need to be tracked down, an email with "I will not be serving rest of my notice, with last day being XX.XX.2021" will be enough so they can process the paperwork accordingly.

They may threaten lawsuits, fire and fury, but the reality is that they have no worthwhile legal recourse unless your contracts has some weird clauses in it. If it does you should seek legal advice from qualified solicitor, not strangers on the internet. Though I will say that any penalties (as unlikely as it is) would be monetary, the idea of court ordering you to keep working for a company is not something you have to worry about as possible outcome.

Of course this comes at a price, as people who will be aware of the situation will remember you breaking your contract and may be wary of you doing that again in the future. If your new company finds out that this has happened they may not like it either, ultimately what is to say that you won't do it do them too?

That brings me swiftly to the alternative: be honest with everyone involved. Explain to your current boss that you've already signed with the new company based on the wrong understanding of your notice period, and explain to the new company the very same thing and try to negotiate something that will work best for everyone involved. This may mean a transition period where for example you quit after a month, but also remain available as part-time support for a month or anything else that makes sense. Be open minded, listen to everyone needs and try to find a working compromise.

While they may say "ugh, that's too long of a wait/too much hassle for us", I don't see it as very likely threat. To explain why, two months is generally nothing in terms of how long it takes to hire skilled talent, and trying to bring someone new as replacement is unlikely to be faster. And as a bonus points you are showing integrity and willingness to honor your contract.

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I was in a very similar situation in the past, when I was resigning from a job thinking that I'm still in the probation period with 1 month notice, while in fact I missed the deadline and had to serve a 3 month notice. I had a new job lined up and was planning to start in exactly 1 month. I couldn't negotiate a shorter notice period, so the only thing I could do was to deliver the bad news to my new employer and apologize, fully expecting that they'll rescind the offer. Luckily, they were accommodating, so I served my 3 month notice and started on my new job with no issues.

There's no way to calculate how likely it is that your new employer will withdraw the offer, and it doesn't matter. Start with trying to negotiate a shorter notice period, if that fails - explain the situation to your new employer and hope for the best. One thing I definitely don't recommend is breaking the rules of your current contract: even if it doesn't get you into legal trouble, your new employer will hardly appreciate it - if you did it to somebody else then you'll probably do the same thing to them if a better opportunity comes along.

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