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I currently have a 2 month notice period so given the current agreed upon start date with my new employer I'd have to give my notice in tomorrow. However, I am yet to have received a written contract with all the terms of employment (just an email stating salary, nothing on holidays etc) so I do not feel comfortable quitting my current job without all the details in writing. I have asked a few times for the contract and I was told I would receive it at the end of last week but didn't and since then I have not had a response to my follow-up email.

If I don't hand in my notice now this will mess up the agreed upon start date. Is it really such a bad idea to hand in notice without a contract or should I wait?

Edit: I should add this is in the UK to clarify due to differing employment laws

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  • 31
    Perhaps only consider your start date "agreed upon" when it is in a signed contract, in hand. Mar 29 at 21:22
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    If you asked for the contract several times and they still didn't send it they might a) be not that interested at all, or b) have inefficient internal processes - which is all the more a reason not to give notice yet. Mar 30 at 7:51
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    “Is it really such a bad idea to hand in notice without a contract or should I wait?” There are two phrases here, separated by “or”, implying that they describe different things. But they actually describe the same thing: “bad idea to hand in notice without a contract” is the same as “should wait to hand in notice”. Mar 30 at 13:54
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    @DaveGremlin They don’t have a contract for their new job, but presumably they have one for their current job, and that is where the two month notice period applies. Mar 30 at 15:10
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    Never ever hand in notice of a job you do have, for a job that you don't. Verbal agreements are not easily enforceable (your word against theirs). If the new job can't be bothered to send you a contract, then that's their problem, not yours. You can always say to them "The start date will have to be pushed back, because I don't have a contract yet".
    – Neil
    Mar 30 at 20:01

6 Answers 6

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If I don't hand in my notice now this will mess up the agreed upon start date. Is it really such a bad idea to hand in notice without a contract or should I wait?

Yes it is a bad idea to hand in notice without a contract.

I would remind your prospective employer that you have a 2 month notice period with your current employer so the contract will need to have a start date of no earlier than 2 months from when you receive it.

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    Perfect answer, succinct and accurate. If they delay, they need to move the start date; HR is pretty familiar with this. Some companies' onboarding procedures are just a mess. If anything.... Take this as a consideration of how organized the new company may be and slightly reconsider your valuation of the company. Not a huge red flag but just think, when they go to replace your team mates if they leave, there will be similar hurdles
    – schizoid04
    Mar 29 at 15:44
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    This. Now it's their problem, and no longer your problem.
    – Heinzi
    Mar 30 at 7:16
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    Yep, long (compared to some countries) notice periods are pretty common in the UK, so the HR of the new place will be understanding. They may well be waiting on a higher up to sign off something and just as frustrated as you are. e.g. in my old job the CEO had to personally sign off all new hires!
    – R Davies
    Mar 30 at 8:00
  • It's worth noting, however, that a formal job offer that you've accepted does actually constitute a contract. It's not entirely uncommon for you to not get the full shebang all singing and all dancing contract until way closer to your start date imho Apr 1 at 9:02
  • @Persistence Good luck enforcing a verbal contract. And while quitting your job without a signed contract might be "common" (is it really?), it certainly is an awful idea as many questions here will demonstrate. The only thing you get from this is a much worse basis for negotiation if the contract suddenly isn't exactly how it was promised.
    – Voo
    Apr 1 at 18:44
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Do not quit without another job lined up.

If it's the norm where you are, your new employer should know you have to have a 2-month notice period and schedule your start date accordingly. Even if it's not an established norm, you can let your new employer know your notice period requirements.

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It is a bad idea because of many reason and the main one that comes to mind is leverage.

Once you hand in your resignation you will be jobless in two months; a ruthless employer could gouge you lowering the (non-existing) offer or pull the threat to retract it if you don't comply with some lowballing request.

That's in my opinion the main reason to not resign before having a written offer.

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Do also check your current contract. It may not actually require that 2 month notice. It may be just a request.

Companies like to be on the high side of the employment process suggesting that you give far more notice than is legally required. But make sure you have a valid offer of employment first, even if legally you can give less notice.

While at it make sure you have funding cover for the potential gap between the last pay cheque of your current employer, and the first pay cheque of the new employer.

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  • Looks like a good answer to me. Why the downvote? Mar 31 at 12:53
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When the prospective new employer waits for the very last minute to send you the contract take it as a very bad sign. They are trying to put you under pressure, force you to read quickly the contract with the risk of passing over the fine print and force you to take a decision without discussing the impact of each clause and without the possibility to ask for amendments.

Basically the contract sent at the very last moment is a take it or leave it proposal without giving enough time for a proper evaluation.

Unfortunately it happens often, it shows how little respect can the employers have for the new employees.

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    I'd consider whether the delay is caused by a combination of thoughtlessness and incompetence before jumping to the assumption of malicious intent.
    – simonc
    Mar 31 at 11:47
  • @simonc If the person who asked the question has some doubt about it they can verify it when they'll receive the contract proposal. A contract full of fine print and dubious clauses would be a sign of malicious intent.
    – FluidCode
    Mar 31 at 11:59
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    I've found that delays are directly proportional to the size of the company too. A megacorporate takes months to do what a SMB takes weeks vs a small business can do overnight.
    – Criggie
    Apr 1 at 2:17
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    @Criggie My experience is the opposite, big companies have very standardised contracts. They take a lot of time to decide whether to hire a person, but after several interviews and a lot of discussions once they made a decision the final step of preparing the contract take little time.
    – FluidCode
    Apr 1 at 8:58
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    I think this answer shows too much negative thinking / suspicion. I think it's more likely that it's not intentional, but the new company just has a poor process for this recruitment. Or they may be understaffed. It's not a good sign, but it's not as bad as this answer suggests.
    – user985366
    Apr 1 at 21:15
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I would consider this as a big RED FLAG.

  • The new company seems to have serious communication issues: Their offer letter only stated salary + They ignored your recent follow up emails
  • Poor candidate experience is usually a sign of a poor employee experience. If they didn't take time to deal with your concers now, don't expect to have support from them or respect your time later as an employee
  • They could intend to hire you for a new project that may risk to be cancelled/postponed. Or they could actually still be interviewing other candidates and didn't make up their mind yet. While this is totally unethical but some companies still do it.

I suggest that you have a look at their Glassdoor reviews and what their employees say about them.

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