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I started this job in February of 2013. I work as a frontend and backend web developer, managing my own projects, managing clients, following projects through from start to finish. I'm on a ridiculously low wage (£25,000) and I have not had an appraisal for this years work, despite pretty much modernised the company via the use of new technology. My work includes clients such as Wembley Stadium (that I PM) and I have built apps that the company before would have found impossible.

Now, when I started the job, I was given an "Offer of employment" which stated a 13 week notice period. I hastily signed, as I was in a rush to get away from the previous company which was even worse (well, I thought so at the time). After I handed that in, I received no copy of a contract, no employee hand book or anything that I could reference.

Now I have an offer for double my current wage, doing exactly what I want (UI development, as opposed to a mixture of backend / frontend), employee benefits such as pension etc. However, I didn't have any reference for my notice period, and asking for one for my current employer would most certainly have aroused suspicions, which, if the offer fell through, would have left me in a huge predicament with 2 young children to look after. I told my new employer that my notice period was 4 weeks, which, in my opinion, is justifiable for the salary I am on, the duration I have been here and the position that I am (apparently, at the bottom).

I'm unhappy here. The designer is leaving as well, and they are saying we have to work the 3 month notice period, as their workload is overbearing (as usual!). This is impossible for me, and neither of us want to work it. I don't care about them not being a reference, as the new job will be a much greater one if ever I need to change from there. I know it's a breach of contract as I have read enough about it but given the circumstance, should I just walk out?

closed as off-topic by jmac, Rhys, jcmeloni, Monica Cellio, CMW Apr 3 '14 at 19:32

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    "and they are saying we have to work the 3 month notice period" is it in your contract? If no, then check you countries laws about leaving notice. Here it says it's 1 week in UK (guessing from the "£") so you shouldn't have any problems. – IgnasK Apr 3 '14 at 9:15
  • @IgnasK the 3 month notice period was certainly in my offer of employment to which I agreed to, however I never got given a copy of a contract and my employee handbook was printed and provided last week, over a year after I started. – rickyduck Apr 3 '14 at 9:20
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    @rickyduck - You could have asked for a copy at any point during that year and half. There is nothing wrong with having your own copy. If you agreed to 3 months good luck getting out of it. They could come after you in civil court in theory if you break the conditions you agreed to. – Donald Apr 3 '14 at 15:51
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    @joe that is not correct > 1 month notice periods are not uncommon in the UK for saleried/professional jobs how often your paid has ZERO bearing on this – Pepone Dec 12 '14 at 12:06
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    What are the repercussions in the UK of leaving a job early? This is all sounding quite extreme to me since I've never heard of more than 2 weeks here in the U.S. and, furthermore, it's not like they can imprison you, so all you risk by leaving early is burning a bridge and maybe losing a little bit of money. This guy's job sounds horrible, and I would certainly not hesitate to burn a bridge and lose a little money to get the heck out of there! – bubbleking Apr 2 '16 at 21:47
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I told my new employer that my notice period was 4 weeks, which, in my opinion, is justifiable

You shouldn't have told them your opinion (however justifiable you may think it - who thinks their own opinions are unjustifiable??) - you should have told them the truth, that you are on a 13 week notice period, which you agreed to and knew you agreed to, however little documentary evidence there might be now.

I don't care about them not being a reference, as the new job will be a much greater one if ever I need to change from there.

You should care - bad news travels much more widely than good (see endless articles about how unhappy customers tell n times as many people as happy ones). And you've made a 'grass is greener' mistake before ("as I was in a rush to get away from the previous company which was even worse (well, I thought so at the time)") - who's to say this new job will actually be so much greater?

I know it's a breach of contract as I have read enough about it but given the circumstance, should I just walk out?

If you think the benefits and rewards of breaching your contract outweigh the costs and risks (to you and your dependents!), then sure. But do you really want to take a chance on being sued and your name being dirt in what is not a large industry? The difference is a mere 9 weeks of work for your current employer. Explain to your new employer that you 'made a mistake', hope they're sympathetic, and next time don't lie.

  • Not true. Although my Offer of Employment stated it, this was the only document I had with it on, which was handed back to the employer. I couldn't ASK them for my notice period, as there's only one reason I'd be asking for that. Furthermore, the employer was looking for the position to be filled before May. I probably wouldn't have got the role, as there were other candidates being interviewed. I am sure that this job will be better. It has multitudes of employee benefits, a better salary, actual structure, and I'll only be working on one system as a UI developer. – rickyduck Apr 3 '14 at 9:48
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    I think you need to sit down with your manager, discuss the fact that your notice period was not made clear to you and you don't have it in writing and ask to come to a compromise. Try to remain as calm as possible in the discussion and explain your situation that you have a new employer who wishes you to start in May. I wouldn't imagine he will let you only serve 4 weeks notice though so you may need to have a similar compromise discussion with your new employer. – Fiona - myaccessible.website Apr 3 '14 at 10:42
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    @rickyduck. You talked yourself into a weird situation now you should use your energy to get gracefully out of it. Your words: "I was given an "Offer of employment" which stated a 13 week notice period" and there are no other documents. Stop wasting your energy on denying the facts, that is one less worry. – Jan Doggen Apr 3 '14 at 14:02
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    @rickyduck - Its perfectly normal to request a copy of any documents you signed. The fact you didn't makes me think you didn't care to have one until now. – Donald Apr 3 '14 at 15:54
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    Assuming this is the UK, firstly the risk of an employee being sued for leaving within the notice period is close to 0. It is also a legal requirement to give all employees a written contact. Therefore a letter along the line of "as I have not been given a written employment contract, I am assuming the notice period is 1 month, if this is not the case, please get the company lawyer to confirm. – Ian Aug 2 '16 at 21:01
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I am not a lawyer and I would seriously suggest you consult one if you do intend to walk out and breach your contract. There is so much conflicting information on the web about what is/isn't enforceable

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Are you able to have a dialog with your boss to explain your situation? Surely they understand that if they keep you "against your will" for the entire period rather than for a reasonable 4 week period, you will not be productive or co-operative. There is a fine line to not burning your bridges though, especially if you work in a fairly incestious market where you are likely to encounter former colleagues in the future.

In my experience, notice periods are there to protect both parties from unforseen circumstances. In reality, an amicable agreement can usually be reached that both parties are happy with. 4 weeks is usually long enough if the handover is managed properly

I would also start thinking about how to explain to your future employer if you cannot leave after 4 weeks as they probably do not want to be told the day before you are due to start that they will have to wait another 2 months for you

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