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I have recently accepted an offer for a new role and they want me to start on the 18th July.

I am currently in an extended probation period until 17th July. The wording in my contract states:

Notice Period:
During the probationary period - 1 week by either party
13 weeks to 4 years continuous service - 12 weeks by employee/4 weeks by employer

I am currently over 13 weeks but still in my probationary period, my salary is ~55k pa.

I have known the company for a while and I feel bad knowing I have a new job and knowing they are not looking at recruiting. I know I should not but I have a lot of good friends there and they have been good to me, it's just purely the line manager I cannot get along with and there is no one else I can report to. It is a small company with 30 staff.

So I have 3 questions:

  1. Am I still in my probation period technically? I have an officially headed letter or does that now not matter as I am past the 13 weeks?

    I have my suspicions that this letter was written by my line manager only without their boss's consent (The CEO who is also HR), I do not think the CEO knows my probation is extended, I think this was a trick for me to respect my manager's authority more as they are very much a "Do what I tell you even if it compromises your role" boss.

  2. If I did give 4 weeks' notice, could they then just give me one week's notice even though I handed in my notice first and am trying to be nice? I do not want to suddenly be without 3 weeks' pay.

  3. If I gave 1 week's notice, could they try and say I should have given 12 and am in breach of contract? I know they need to prove I am losing them money by leaving that quickly but I understand this is a long and difficult process for them to prove.

I really do not know what is the best option here. My heart tells me to give them 4 weeks' notice and be nice and hopefully, they will be nice back as I do have project work to finish. But my brain is telling me to give them the minimum of 1 week's notice and move on.

Any help appreciated.

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  • @SolarMike That does not answer the 4 questions I am asking though. I would ideally like to give more notice. Although I have worked FOR them for 5 months, I have worked WITH them for over 6 years at different companies and them as a third party.
    – Malen Gwen
    Jun 25 at 18:08
  • The Citizens Advice Bureau would probably be a better place to start.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 25 at 20:04
  • How did your notice period get "extended"? What happened and what paper trail do you have ?
    – Hilmar
    Jun 25 at 23:23
  • You should start here, acas.org.uk/notice-periods as you have been employed for more than 5 months your legally classed as an employee. The notice period you need to give them is 1 week
    – Dan K
    Jun 26 at 7:15
  • @DanK It depends on the contract agreed upon. The notice period can be changed on agreement, which seems to be the case here. Jun 27 at 7:09

4 Answers 4

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If there are different terms for "during the probation period" and "from 13 weeks to 4 years", and you are apparently in a situation where you are both in your probation period and from 13 weeks to 4 years, the contract is self contradictory. If things go to court, a self contradictory contract will be decided to the advantage of the person who didn't write the contract, that's you.

There's also the fact that your statutory notice period would be "at least one week" from two months to three years, and an asymmetric notice period (12 weeks for you, 4 weeks for the employer) has little chance to succeed.

I'd recommend that you contact an employment lawyer to be on the safe side. If you don't want to, give one weeks notice, with a note that if they don't accept the notice, they should tell you as soon as possible, so you can pass it to your employment lawyer at (some well known employment law office near you); that has a good chance of stopping any shenanigans. In the end, everyone knows that if they force you to stay, they'll have to pay you and get nothing of value for it.

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  1. Am I still in my probation period technically? I have an officially headed letter or does that now not matter as I am past the 13 weeks?

The reality of the situation doesn't really matter. The question is if they are going to take you to court to try to recover costs. Because there is a high chance of them losing, it doesn't seem worth it to them.

I have my suspicions that this letter was written by my line manager only without their boss's consent (The CEO who is also HR), I do not think the CEO knows my probation is extended, I think this was a trick for me to respect my manager's authority more as they are very much a "Do what I tell you even if it compromises your role" boss.

It doesn't matter what the CEO knows or doesn't know. They delegate responsibility their subordinates. If your line manager should have kept them in the loop, that's a problem that they will have to sort out among themselves.

  1. If I did give 4 weeks' notice, could they then just give me one week's notice even though I handed in my notice first and am trying to be nice? I do not want to suddenly be without 3 weeks' pay.

Yes. Of course. That is standard.

  1. if I gave 1 week's notice, could they try and say I should have given 12 and am in breach of contract? I know they need to prove I am losing them money by leaving that quickly but I understand this is a long and difficult process for them to prove.

If you have a letter saying your probation is extended, then it's a reasonable interpretation of the situation to understand that you have to give one weeks notice.

With respect to the ambiguity in the contract, there is a concept called contra proferentem, which broadly means that the ambiguity is resolved to the detriment of the party that drafted the contract.

Note that this doesn't mean that the outcome is an arbitrary thing that is best for you. It means the ambiguity itself is resolved to your benefit. Here the ambiguity is which of the two sets of rules apply.


Personally, I'd just give one weeks notice.

It doesn't sound like you get on with your line manager, and if you can't afford to miss out on a salary, then this seems like the logical thing to do.

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    Actually, since the contract is not clear (you are both in the probation and after 4 weeks), you have the right to give one week notice, because one part of the contract says you can, but they have to give you four weeks, because another part of. the contract says so. But for most people, contracts are clear so this doesn't usually apply. If you give more notice than legally required, they can give you shorter notice. That shorter notice starts on the day they give you notice. So if they figure out two weeks later that they want one week, not four, you'd leave one week after those two weeks.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 28 at 7:02
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In my experience, you usually receive a letter from the company if you have "passed" your probation period - so it would be reasonable to assume that you are still 'on' probation. I've had this notice even when working for very small firms.

Some organisations will actually offer additional 'perks' after 'passing' probation - e.g. pension, healthcare. Maybe even an up-front/agreed salary bump. Check your contract to see if you are set to gain any extra perks post-probation; if you're not receiving these currently, then it would be reasonable to suggest you are still on probation.

Ultimately, depending on how well you get on with your employer, and depending on how much you want to avoid burning bridges, maybe meet your current company in the middle. Intend to provide a week's notice - if they come back to you and say "we want 4", offer to meet them half-way at 2 weeks. The ball really is in your court here.

The IT world in the UK is a small one; the key is to be flexible where you can as to avoid burning bridges where possible. It's not always possible. I'd be tempted to say if your new job wants you to start in a week, for example, I would simply leave after a week. You have to earn a living at the end of the day.

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You need to look up for yourself. nobody else will be as invested in you as you :)

Do not calculate niceness in to the equation - it is a remainder in this case

If 4 weeks works well in to your starting on 18th, by all means give it. This will no be seen as nice, because its standard margin

IF 4 weeks is too long, give 1 week notice as per contract and say, unofficially, if they want a bit longer yo can go a week or so extra over the notice period

This way you will be nice in this tough situation

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