My wife started a new job in the UK in the beginning of September. Before starting the job, she had notified them that she will need to take all of October off for our wedding and honeymoon. The contract she signed was pretty generic, making no mention of the unpaid leave, and it stated that the probation period will last three months from when she started work, and that the termination notice period for either parties will be a week during probation and three months after.

In the beginning of December, she decided she did not want to continue working at the company, so wanted to find a new job before her probation period ended. She assumed she would still have nearly a month, as, discounting the long unpaid leave, she had only actually worked there for two months. She found a job soon after, and initially verbally notified her manager just a few days beyond the three calendar months from her start date. Initially, her manager was okay with her leaving, and they verbally agreed on an end date in the beginning of January, which was nearly a month away. My wife then went and agreed an early start date in January with her new company based on her verbal agreement with the manager.

However, a few days later, her manager came back and said that, having talked to HR, he has been informed that she has already passed her probation period, so the notification period needs to be at least three months. He claims that he had not realised that she had passed her probation when making the original agreement, despite being her manager.

There's also the HR welcome pack my wife received upon joining the company, which she and HR personnel both signed, which stated that, regarding the probation, there will be "a review meeting with your line manager will be arranged". Since joining the company, she has had no notification at all regarding probation, not even a letter telling her she had passed (HR claims they haven't got around to it yet). This is part of the reason why she assumed she was still in her probation period.

At this point, due to the way the company is handling this matter, she really doesn't want to work for them any more, so she wants to know: if she insists on finish according to the initial verbal agreement, what can be the consequences? Would a company likely to pursue legal action?

closed as off-topic by David K, PeteCon, Rory Alsop, Erik, Jonast92 Dec 21 '16 at 11:07

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  • 4
    This question is better asked to a lawyer, not us. – David K Dec 19 '16 at 20:49
  • Is there a particular reason she would assume that the probation period does not include any leave time? After all, a three month probation period would still be expected to last three months from the start date if there had been a few bank holidays, or you'd taken, say, a week off. Had it been discussed at all? – meta Dec 19 '16 at 23:33
  • You should seek legal advice. As they did not confirm the probation's end, you are probably fine just leaving from a legal point of view, but have it confirmed by a professional. On a side note, it's way more expensive for them to engage in legal action against you rather than seek a suitable replacement, not to mention you would most likely not be willing to produce much for them and they would have to recruit in 3 months anyway. – Thalantas Dec 20 '16 at 10:16

Is it possible for them to pursue legal action? Maybe, you need to ask a lawyer. However, is it likely? And the answer is most likely "no", as any legal battle means both time and money, and most company's would rather not waste theirs.

Your wife doesn't owe these people anything. If they were the ones letter her go, she'd be escorted out of the building right away.

She should inform her boss that the company never made it clear that she had "passed" probation, and that she made her plans with that information in mind. Sadly, she cannot accommodate their request for a 3 month termination notice, as they have chosen to inform her after she has already signed a contract with a January start date.

Don't lose any sleep over it.

  • 1
    This. There is always the threat of legal action, but it's only in extremely rare cases that this is taken (usually with very senior staff). Plus with the verbal confirmation on the leave date from the manager and the ambiguity regarding the end of the probationary period, it's not even a dead cert they would win anyway. – Andrew Berry Dec 20 '16 at 9:47
  • There is a good chance that the only reason to ask for three months notice is that some HR drone found it in the paperwork. The company might be very happy not to pay three months salary for someone who doesn't want to be there. – gnasher729 Dec 20 '16 at 13:31

I'd suggest a discussion with an employment lawyer, who can write a letter for her that she is serious about leaving with one weeks notice and that trying to keep her on for longer is going to be expensive.

In the end, it is absolutely pointless to force someone to work for three more months who doesn't want to be there. HR may not be aware of that, they may see a contract that they think must be fulfilled no matter what, but I could imagine that your wife won't have the focus and dedication that makes people produce useful work and avoid costly mistakes.

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