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Location: UK

In January, I made the decision to hand in my notice of resignation for the sake of my mental wellbeing - the stress became too much for me to bare, and after a number of attempts to address the issues with management, I gave up and handed in my notice.

My employment contract requires me to give at least three months of notice, which I agreed to from the very beginning. The initial agreement in my notice of resignation included a leave date in April, three calendar months from when I handed in the notice. After a number of meetings to discuss further, I was asked to extend my notice period to June, meaning I would be giving over 6 months of notice. I agreed to this in writing. I agreed to this because I was told (verbally, during the meetings, not in writing) that management would try to make things better, and for the first two months or so, things did get a little better. But it's been over four months and I'm at a point where I feel I can no longer continue to serve this notice period.

I have already served the notice period that is required by my employment contract, so the notice I am currently serving is voluntary. Am I required to see it through? Can I leave without serving the rest of this voluntary notice without breaking any rules?

I understand that leaving abruptly will likely cause problems for my colleagues. Please understand that there are a number of reasons for why I'm at this point. I've worked at this company for over seven years, with the last five being in a senior position. My job has gotten so bad in so many ways, I simply cannot continue. I have already accepted an offer for a new position and I have the means to financially support myself until I start the new job.

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    I think you need to update your understanding of "voluntary". – Sourav Ghosh May 13 at 15:33
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    @SouravGhosh but just to be clear, we don't know at all what this "new agreement" is. presumably the old contract is finished as it can only be; the new agreement could be of a voluntary nature. Who knows what it says in that paper – Fattie May 13 at 15:37
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    @Fattie True that, but if it's voluntary, company would not be interested in getting that in writing, OP would. I think this is proof enough of a mandatory clause : "I was asked to extend my notice period to June, meaning I would be giving over 6 months of notice. I agreed to this in writing." – Sourav Ghosh May 13 at 15:38
  • "I have already accepted an offer for a new position and I have the means to financially support myself until I start the new job." Don't ask us for permission. If the situation is toxic and hasn't improved, you should leave. – Stephan Branczyk May 13 at 16:13
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    @StephanBranczyk While I agree with the sentiment, the poster should at least be aware doing so would almost certainly be a breach of their contract and that consequences that could lead to. – Philip Kendall May 13 at 16:19
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After a number of meetings to discuss further, I was asked to extend my notice period to June, meaning I would be giving over 6 months of notice. I agreed to this in writing.

the notice I am currently serving is voluntary

No, it's not. You agreed to continue working until June; that was a modification to the terms of your employment and overrides the notice you gave in January.

If you feel you cannot continue working for your employer, you should discuss this with a medical practitioner; they may well agree and sign you off from work due for health reasons, at which point your employment (mostly) becomes moot.

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  • If you agreed to an extension verbally the answer to your question might be different, but you agreed to an extension in writing, you will have to get your company to agree to a new plan if you want to leave earlier than June. The company cannot force you to work for them. You might want to contact a lawyer to see what your options are. The last thing you want to do, is hurt your professional reputation, over what realistically is only 45 days. – Donald May 13 at 13:38
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    This answer could well be wrong. All we know regarding the strange "extension" is "I agreed to this in writing". Hence "that was a modification to the terms of your employment" may be wholly incorrect. There are a hundred possible ways this could have been handled in the piece of paper the OP signed. (Just for example, the initial contract may be completely finished, and, this is some new sort of short-term contract.) – Fattie May 13 at 14:07
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I have already served the notice period that is required by my employment contract, so the notice I am currently serving is voluntary.

It is voluntary only in the sense that you voluntarily agreed to the revised (longer) notice period, not in the sense that you don't have any obligation to be there.

Am I required to see it through?

If nothing further modifies your agreement with the company then yes you are required to see it through.

Can I leave without serving the rest of this voluntary notice without breaking any rules?

The good news is you can leave earlier - if you and the company agree. Just like when you first gave notice both parties can negotiate and agree a different length, so while you can't just choose to walk out that doesn't mean that June date is set in stone.

Given the history and the fact that you're so close to the end I'd be surprised if they weren't amenable to some sort of expediting the notice period. So I'd suggest approaching them, if you can go in pre-prepared to answer any queries about any handover (whether that's a case of it already being done or a plan as to how/when you expect to be able to finish it) that would put you in a very strong position. They might try (again) to talk you into staying long term but it really shouldn't come as a shock to them that you're leaving.

The fact that you showed willingness to be flexible and give them more notice than required in the first place (and actually have served more than would have been required) strengthens your position when you ask them for a little quid pro quo - don't hesitate to remind them of that willingness if they look to be baulking at your request.

Also before you approach them do the math on how much holiday you have accrued - if your holiday year is in line with the calendar year (not all but many company's do) you'll have accrued a decent amount of leave allowance which you can use to start chipping away at that time as well.

Good luck!

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