My situation is a rather easy one.

For the last two years I have been working for a company, and they have been giving me short term contracts. Anything from one week to one month. At the end of my contract it is assumed that I will come the following day, because I am actually fulfilling a permanent employees role, and I will be given another contract to sign. Hiring decisions are not done in our office, and they have recommended me for a permanent job, but this company is big and saves a lot of money with this scheme.

I have now been hired by a different company. They have given me a permanent job with much better salary which is also actually in my field.

Here is the problem. I found out that I have a new job 1 week before the end of my current contract, but with the holidays there will be only 2 working days left to inform my current employer, that I will not be signing a new contract. I do not have a notice period, but I still feel that 2 days is a short period of time, since they need to find a replacement. (This should not be to difficult. The job does not require a lot of training.)

I like my current work place and I don't want to make things difficult for them. How should I tell my my current employer that I am not signing a new contract, in a friendly way, that might also leave the possibility open of returning?

Update Thank you for all the responses. If you would like to know what happened when I spoke with my current management, and also the reason for my choice, please see my comment on the chosen answer.

  • Hi Michael, can you add to your post when you found out you got a new job? Did you wait until 2 days beforehand to find out you had a new job? Why is it you only have 2 days?
    – jmort253
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 6:57
  • @jmort253 I found out 1 week before that I got the job, but with the public holidays there will be only 2 working days left for me to tell my employer. Also it is just coincidence that my contract ends then. It could have been a longer period. Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 8:16
  • 3
    They decided to take that risk and go with rolling contracts for you. Just politely state that you will not be renewing this contract as you had the opportunity to get a permanent job with a short notice (which they failed to give you). Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 14:30
  • In the US, there is no legal reason to give prior notice. There's sometimes 'good will' reasons to do so, but it sounds like you were a perpetual contractor to avoid the company having to pay real benefits, so I see no moral obligation here to care one way or the other. THAT SAID, that's coming from a US point of view and things may very well be different in Scandinavia.
    – DA.
    Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 16:38
  • @DA., he says in the question that he's trying to maintain good will, which goes beyond meeting legal requirements. Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 16:59

3 Answers 3


One thought is - that for better or worse, short notice is short notice. It will always depend on job, location and the current state of the market as to whether 1 week's notice, with 2 days of actual work available is awful or no big deal - but this isn't a vector you can easily change - it sounds like you want the new job, and it starts when it starts.

I'm not sure there's a better or worse way to tell your current management that you are leaving - about the best I can offer is that ASAP is the ideal. A few tips would be:

  • Get a meeting 1 on 1 with your manager ASAP, make it clear that it must be done RIGHT NOW, and can't wait until after the holidays.
  • Know all the details of your exit from the company - state of your work, hanging details, exactly when you'll be starting the next job, and any other questions he might ask so he can have as simple a handoff as possible
  • Be very clear with yourself on what you can and can't offer during the handoff - any offer you make above and beyond the call of duty should be something you're actually prepared to do.

Given the situation that you never have an opportunity to talk about future contracts, they always just give you a new contract, there should be no expectation on their part that you'd stick around forever. Ideally, you'd have made that clear, subtly, while doing the job search - but there's no way to go back in time on that.

I'd think in a situation like this, your management (if reasonable) will not freak out - but in a situation where it become habitual to do things on short notice, the other party can get surprised when there's a change in routeine. If faced with surprise, shock or outrage, be calm, cool, collected - firm but unapologetic. It's not YOUR fault they don't plan ahead - and it's not THEIR right to assume you'll always sit and wait for a new contract.

  • 2
    I made this my chosen answer because I like the point about doing it as soon as possible, and that is what I did. I went to my manager as early as possible and told him that after this contract ends I will not be signing a new one because I have taken a different job in my field. I would like to mention the really nice response I got from my manager. He did not show any disappointment, but rather wanted to know if I enjoyed my time with them, which I did. Also he asked/hoped that the new work is with a permanent contract and he told me that I did excellent work for them. Wonderful response! Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 12:29
  • That's fantastic! I'm glad it worked! Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 14:40

It's an interesting position because whether you are (from a legal perspective) an employee or a contractor, it is highly variable from country to country.

In New Zealand, for example, laws exist to prevent exactly the situation you have described - which is regarded as "casualising the workforce"; in law, no matter what your agreement states, you actually would be considered a permenant employee. Other countries do not allow "rolling contracts" or for contractors to work for the same firm for more than six months.

It is worth checking out the local laws where you work - most countries have information on this on the government websites associated with company taxation, as using contractors is often a tax avoidance scheme.

That said, this is a not a situation you have created or controlled.

If the company desired to have the benefits of hiring a full time employee (such as a notice period) then they should have moved you onto a permanent contract.

They chose this situation either because it was financially advantageous (for example not having to cover leave, insurance, or tax, or provide training) or so that you would not have the full benefit of any laws related to redundancy, if they had to downsize.

As a result, I would suggest something along the lines of the following, in writing:

"As a result of a change in my personal circumstances, I have decided to no longer operate as an independant contractor. As a result, I will not be seeking further contracts with company name when my current contract terminates on date.

I've greatly enjoyed contracting at name. I would welcome the opportunity to work with you again in the future if I chose to return to contracting or should a permanent role become available that fits my career path."

I would suggest there is a reasonable chance they will offer you a permanent role when you hand in what is effectively your resignation; if the company has been "avoiding" aspects of your local employment laws, it may be wiser to turn them down.

  • related information on contractor vs employee in New Zealand.
    – jmort253
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 7:08
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    @jmort - I knew you had posted that somewhere! In practice, this issue usually comes up when there is a court case or dispute. The NZ employment court will see that the employer has not acted "in good faith" (a phrase in NZ employment law) and the company tends to lose. NZ employment law is particularly strong in favour of the employee, however, especially on things like casual work, fixed term employment agreements and contractors. I'm lucky in that my employer provides us with "employee relations" training that covers this minefield.
    – GuyM
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 7:21
  • @jmort253 My situation is rather interesting, because what this company does is really odd. Legally they are breaking the law here as well, and I do not know how they are able to do this. They might have a loophole. But then again I do have all the benefits of a permanent employee. Private medical and so on. I know many who have had this type of contract with them. If they forget to give me a contract for one week, then I am legally entitled to a permanent contract. The only difference between me and other employees is that my salary is less and I need to sign a new contract every few weeks. Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 8:23
  • @MichaelFrey - Generally companies can have whatever they want on a bit of paper; if it breaches the local laws then then the bits that do are invalid and the local law applies. This only usually comes to light in court - and typically this only happens when the employee has an issue (made redundant, sacked etc...) The law may consdier you as a permenant employee - in which case the company may be using a (non-existant) "contractor" status just to justify lower pay, the ability to "let you go" if they need to, and the associated overhead savings. Which is not very nice, in my opinion
    – GuyM
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 8:48
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    @MichaelFrey Why would you want to go back to a company that took advantage of you for two years? They get away with it because employees like yourself will never report it. Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 13:39

At some point in the interview process, your new employer should have known about your current status. They should ask when you can be available. Hopefully they want to encourage you to give ample notice. It's a sign of professionalism and I'm sure they don't want to hire people who don't care about these things.

Ask your current employer how much time they need, but let them know you won't go beyond what is considered appropriate in your area of the country. There's no reason to burn a bridge here if you can avoid it. You never know; they may tell you your time is up when you give notice.

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