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It's the last week at my current job and I was wondering about the exact social protocols / expectations for leaving employees in the UK. I'm leaving on good terms and everyone knows it's happening. It's a small company (~15ish employees) and I'm their first person to leave (so there's no existing "protocol"). My boss has booked a table at a pub to have some drinks with the team on my last day.

Are there any expectations on me for that day (similarly to how people are expected to bring cake / sweets on their birthdays)? Am I expected to buy everyone drinks? Accept drinks being bought for me? Until now all outings with the team were covered by the company but this is the first time when it's an outing clearly focused on a specific person (i.e. moi).

I'm generally clueless about those kinds of things so I welcome shared wisdom on the topic.

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I've been to a few of these in the UK. There is no expectation of you buying drinks over and above what you would normally do. (In general if someone else sets up a pub visit you are not expected to be the main buyer). Behave like you would with any other group of colleagues. People may buy drinks for you - accept them nicely if they do, without drinking more than you should in work company.

Say nice things about your time at the company and/or your colleagues. That's all thats expected.

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    "People may buy drinks for you - accept them nicely if they do." ..but don't get completely off your trolley on your last day with your colleagues and boss..
    – iLuvLogix
    Nov 4 '21 at 10:43
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It may not be strictly expected, but people always appreciate when you get your round in. I would definitely buy a round. Other than that just be nice and enjoy a few drinks.

Have worked in the UK and elsewhere.

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There aren't many universal rules in UK businesses. Some offices have a lot of celebrations, cakes/sweets are brought in a lot (to mark different occasions), while others will let things pass almost unnoticed.

Bringing in food

If it's a place where people often bring in cakes/sweets, etc, you may want to bring something in for everyone. But equally there are offices where this doesn't happen (and with COVID some offices are less keen on communal eating). Different offices will have favourite foods, but cakes, buns, sweets, chocolate, national/regional delicacies, home-baking, etc, are all typical. People are unlikely to be very upset even if you break with tradition.

Presentations and speeches

Some businesses will have some sort of presentation on the last day, and maybe some kind of gift given to you (paid for by a collection from your colleagues). At such an event, there will probably be a brief speech from a manager, and you may be expected to say a few words in return - just thank everybody for the gift and for making your work easy and pleasurable (it's ok to single out people you've worked with closely) and maybe make a joke, it doesn't have to be much. This doesn't happen with every business - some companies like to mark events like birthdays, weddings, anniversaries of people starting work, etc, while others don't.

Departing

At the end of the day, if it's a small team, you can go round people saying goodbye. If you're seeing everyone later, you don't need to say goodbye. It's usual to send out a group email earlier in the day saying thanks and goodbye and providing brief contact details for anyone who wants to stay in touch (whether LinkedIn, social media, phone, email, or whatever you're happy to give, but you don't need to provide lots of methods of contact).

Leaving drinks

For leaving drinks, others have covered it. You may be lucky and get drinks bought for you, or people may pay for their own (either by buying individually, alternating rounds, or paying a bill at the end, depending on the establishment). I believe in parts of Europe it's usual to buy drinks for everyone on such occasions (or is that just birthdays?) but it's definitely not required in the UK. It's possible the company may pay something towards leaving drinks - this is rare, especially if you've not been there long, but it can happen.

Conclusion

There aren't a lot of rituals around leaving. In most workplaces, leaving is not a big thing, and shouldn't require any expense from you (beyond buying your own drinks/meal). Doubtless the office joker will come up with lots of other alleged traditions they insist you must do, but ignore them.

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